by Zohra KhanJan 24, 2022
Designing a modern-day café in a thriving urban realm like Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam entails creating a space capable of doubling as a makeshift office, a refuge from the travails of urban living, or even a quiet spot for patrons to immerse themselves in a good book - all while getting their daily caffeine fix. With all these requirements, the domain of café design is now an outlet for creative professionals to experiment and let their imaginations run amok, envisioning spaces that both astonish and soothe, providing delightful backdrops for social excursions combined with spaces of contemplation.
Local design practice Red5 Studio was handed this exact responsibility when charged to develop a second outlet for 'September' - a brand of coffee and cake shops based in the region. The firm had previously also designed the brand's first branch, with a narrative theme titled 'Autumn and Fall Leaves’. At the new outlet's location - a pre-existing set of former residential buildings, nestled between packed rows of townhouses, they sought to recreate the aesthetic of the fall season embedded within their previous hospitality design projects, with cosy nooks and spots infusing an air of intimacy into the terraced spatial layout.
With the aid of vine-like strips of curved steel that mimic the wound grass of a bird's nest, the new facade design evokes an image of whirling winds enveloping the structure. Featuring stucco finishes in pale beige tones that extend to most of the café's walls and ceilings, the steel vines are fitted with miniature hanging circular elements. Contributing to the quaint charm of the facade's organic architecture and its minute attention to detail, the fixtures resemble birds seated on a tree branch, swaying in the wind.
Adjacent to the large glazed entryway - which visually links the café’s interior to the street outside - cylindrical columns flank a curved seating area nestled into a recess of the facade. Inside, the design uses a predominantly neutral colour palette comprising white, rose-orange, and natural wood tones. Along with the beige used on the exterior, the hues work to foster a sense of familiarity associated with the September brand. Elements of biomorphic and biophilic design pervade the café’s spaces and infuse them with nature's innate beauty.
On the ground floor, the bar seating area, focused on the main counter, was designed to allow for rapid turnover, catering to guests seeking quick service. Infill pebble floors bordered by curved pathways interspersed with planters create an ‘indoor but outdoor’ environment. Circular perforations in the walls open up the space, crafting secluded viewpoints for the activities occurring in other sections of the café. In this zone, according to Red5 Studio, "the wind's image is led by curves in space, through the ceiling, walls, and floor, to create a light feeling like a breeze spreading into each corner". This is evident in the slim steel ceiling elements that echo billowing winds. An air of delicacy permeates much of the design, emphasised in the slender curved staircases that link the café's four levels.
Providing more secluded seating overlooking the bar below, the second and third levels of the café are geared towards large groups or guests that stay for longer durations. Balconies enclosed by sweeping railings of broad curved steel offer a picturesque setting for patrons to watch life unfolding on the street below while enjoying their meal or sipping on a drink.
The café's upper levels are structured as a terrace sit-out - acting as the smoking area, filled with greens that transform it into an aerial garden. Innovative lighting design evoking reminiscence of tree branches with its fixtures lines the space, also featuring an eye-catching spiral staircase. Elegant curved furnishings with a combination of wood-finished and upholstered seating merge with the soft, earthy palette to produce a gentle and playful ambience in the interior design. What arises from all these individual parts, is a serene refuge - much like the natural sanctuary of a bird's nest, weaving a soothing fragment of nature into the fabric of a bustling metropolis.
Name: September Café ‘The Wind Blows’
Location: 47-49 Vinh Hoi street, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Area: 260 sqm
Client: September Saigon
Design & Build: Red5studio + Ben Decor
Partner: Ben Decor, A Thông, Zero Furniture, Jati Tile, Nhật Phương
Concept: Lại Chính Trực
Design Team: Lại Chính Trực, Nguyễn Vịnh Nhi, Trần Thị Kim Duyên, Phạm Hoàng Duy Nhân