A solo stereotomic skylight pierces the pure horizontality of CarmoCoffees Headquarters

Architect Gustavo Penna brews tales of coffee with the new CarmoCoffees Headquarters, placed within the coffee plantations in Brazil, and made distinct by a huge concave skylight.

by Jincy IypePublished on : May 17, 2022

It's not that often when architects and commercial retailers converse coherently in a built format, allowing visitors and users to interact with their building freed from personal constraints; to be able to touch and feel the tangible fabric of the volume and what it represents, as opposed to just viewing it from a distance. Ensconced within a powerfully natural site, the new, stunning headquarters for CarmoCoffees becomes an intended stage for lovers of coffee, where they can arrive and experience its processes uninhibited, where the commercial aspects of buying, selling and manufacturing coffee merge seamlessly with the intangibility of purely experiencing it.

CarmoCoffees Headquarters sits nestled within coffee farms and plantations in Brazil | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
CarmoCoffees Headquarters sits nestled within coffee farms and plantations in Brazil Image: Leonardo Finotti

Designed by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados, the commercial architecture with a solo stereotomic skylight dressing its grounded concrete shell, comes alive with the intoxicating smell of coffee trees that sprout in the region of Carmo de Minas in Brazil – "It seems that it was the coffee itself that chose the best soil to live. Because coffee soon felt at home: the rainy summer weather, in contrast to the dry and ideal season for fruit ripening, makes the beans ready to be harvested at the most pleasant temperature here," shares the company, who collaborated with Gustavo Penna to pay tribute to their own legacy, and advocate the long and fascinating process of speciality coffee.

A concave skylight becomes the only adorning element of the elongated concrete form of the CarmoCoffees Headquarters | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
A concave skylight becomes the only adorning element of the elongated concrete form of the CarmoCoffees Headquarters Image: Leonardo Finotti

The state of Minas Gerais prides itself as a main coffee-producing region, in Brazil and globally. “Arriving here in the mid-18th century, coffee became the main product of the Brazilian economy. The search for the ideal growing region extended throughout the country and made Minas Gerais the main producing region. In this trend, CarmoCoffees has worked with the premise that quality comes from our respect and care for the entire production chain. The most important tool to achieve this is the right placement to mark the product’s presence and make it become a symbol,” the renowned Brazilian architect shares.

Inside the light coffee coloured interiors of CarmoCoffees Headquarters | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
Inside the light coffee coloured interiors of CarmoCoffees Headquarters Image: Leonardo Finotti

The site, located in the city of Três Corações, on the banks of the Fernão Dias highway, presented itself as a strategic location for coffee logistics and its existing cultivation. It, therefore, demanded a remarkable structure that would ease itself into a landmark that drew direct parallels to coffee and its myriad production processes. Thus ensued an "inward-looking", lingering, geometric volume rendered in a hue of unroasted coffee beans, its skin open at just one focal point by means of a scooped out skylight that breaks its salient horizontality. The concave skylight, ever so slightly leaning at the bottom, is also successful in bringing the Brazilian sun in, since there are no other visible apertures on the exterior, transforming it into an expression of "inner light" for itself. Its most distinct feature is demonstrated by glass planes held together by repeated triangular steel frames that take over most of the facade from the ceiling, just shy of kissing the floor.

The warehouse reveals itself as an “inward-looking” volume | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
The warehouse reveals itself as an “inward-looking” volume Image: Leonardo Finotti

"The resulting atmosphere is necessarily solemn because it is perhaps the only moment when these qualities will be brought together to demonstrate the significance of our coffee,” shares CarmoCoffees. The predominant materiality of the project, which took almost four years to complete, comprises concrete pillars, beams in metal trusses and metal tile roofing.

The backdrop for the lobby area features bags of coffee beans | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
The backdrop for the lobby area features bags of coffee beans Image: Leonardo Finotti

Entered through a portal made of a perforated plate of beans fresh from harvest, the new CarmoCoffees warehouse ensconces spaces for processing, storing, tasting, exhibiting and selling coffee. In the foreground on the floor, a map of the producing region is displayed at length, while towards the right, coffee is presented as a precious commodity in its various stages of cultivation and retail. Above this, on a jute-covered wall are the names of the adjacent farms and the producers, highlighting the real "heroes" of the region. "In the background, the sublimated translucent coffee bean is the most symbolic expression of this almost ritualistic environment,” shares Gustavo Penna.

  • The museum-like tunnel that leads visitors further into the headquarters | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    The museum-like tunnel that leads visitors further into the headquarters Image: Leonardo Finotti
  • The machinery and systems inside the coffee warehouse | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    The machinery and systems inside the coffee warehouse Image: Txai Ilg

From here, one traverses upwards into the choreographed shade of a museum-like tunnel that unravels in cinematic glory. Just like the rest of the structure imbued in various hues of coffee brown, the intended experience of this path tells a story while leading into the big warehouse, seen from above. Right below in the micro-lot area, one is encouraged to pause and contemplate the coffee processing systems. The administrative area housed on the second floor is developed around a large, open patio, bringing light and relaxation to the mostly sparse interiors. "The light control, the images, and the colours employed throughout the warehouse enhance this sublime, succinct atmosphere," the design team relays, who also carried out the interior design for the project.

The CarmoCoffees Headquarters features open-plan floors where all activities are visible from most vantage points inside | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
The CarmoCoffees Headquarters features open-plan floors where all activities are visible from most vantage points inside Image: Leonardo Finotti

The stretched, mostly open plan floor designs make sure that all processes, spaces, storage, and equipment remain in view, from all vantage points inside the retail architecture, letting customers focus on the heart of the project - coffee.

Spread over the ground floor and a mezzanine level, the Brazilian architecture has designated spaces for receiving producers and partners, quality control, roasting and tasting coffee. On the storage side, the machinery is prepared to receive the coffee plants and beans and process them, separated by larger batches and micro-lots, with completely new and modern equipment. According to CarmoCoffees, the stocking capacity is about 170 thousand bags. The warehouse also contains support sectors for drivers responsible for transporting coffee beans, all to ensure that the process of receiving and disposing of coffee is done in the cleanest and safest way possible.

The CarmoCoffees Headquarters ensconces spaces for processing, storing, tasting, exhibiting and selling coffee | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
The CarmoCoffees Headquarters ensconces spaces for processing, storing, tasting, exhibiting and selling coffee Image: Leonardo Finotti

The architects rightly drew purposeful cues from the coffee farms that grow nearby, elevating the site through the building’s experience in tandem with its resulting commercial avenues to inform the design of the salient structure. The geometric simplicity of the CarmoCoffees Headquarters is robust, intentional, and contemporary, relaying a spatial and tangible experience that both coffee aficionados and lovers of architecture would enjoy.

  • Site plan (top) and ground floor plan (bottom)| CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    Site plan (top) and ground floor plan (bottom) Image: Courtesy of Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados
  • Enlarged ground floor plans | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    Enlarged ground floor plans Image: Courtesy of Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados
  • Enlarged mezzanine floor plans | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    Enlarged mezzanine floor plans Image: Courtesy of Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados
  • Enlarged floor plans for the ground floor (top) and the mezzanine (bottom) | CarmoCoffees Headquarters by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados | STIRworld
    Enlarged floor plans for the ground floor (top) and the mezzanine (bottom) Image: Courtesy of Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados

Project Details

Name: CarmoCoffees Headquarters
Location: Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Built Area: 11,511 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect and Interior Designers: Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados (GPA&A)
Design team: Gustavo Penna, Norberto Bambozzi, Laura Penna, Letícia Carneiro, Oded Stahl, Caio Vieira, Alice Leite Flores, Fernanda Tolentino, Henrique Neves, Bárbara Novais, Ada Penna, Larissa Freire, Gabriel de Souza, Larissa Freire, Sávio de Oliveira, Felipe Franco, Mariana Carvalho, Rafaela Rennó, Manoel Belisario, Raquel de Resende, Eduardo Magalhäes, Julia Lins; André Silva, Bernardo Alves, Lucas Moreira, Gustavo Monteiro, João Prado (Interns)
Furniture suppliers: Prodomo
Joinery suppliers: Art Versatile
Lighting project: Acropoluz
Electrical project: TecServ
Structural Project: MR Construtora
External and internal glass suppliers: Vidraçaria Bom Pastor
Coatings and flooring suppliers: Miaki
Construction: MR Construtora
Director: Guilherme Rabelo
Visual identity: GSB2
Marketing: Diana Penna

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