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Studio SKLIM carves a café out of concrete in Singapore

A curvaceous counter connects customers with their barista at Voids Café, a compact café in River Valley, Singapore, designed by Studio SKLIM.

Studio SKLIM carves a café out of concrete in Singapore

In his INDE.Awards 2020 project submission, architect Kevin Lim described the aesthetic of Voids Café as “fluid, with its own fuzzy logic”. And you can see what he means. His cavernous design for the tight site is certainly not based on any premeditated idea of what a café should look like. Ergonomically, however, Voids Café by Studio SKLIM is precisely as it should be.

“Our client gave us carte blanche to design this micro café,” says Lim, the founding director of the Singapore-based practice, Studio SKLIM. In a nutshell, the brief was this:

  • footprint: 28-square-metres;
  • construction timeline: one month;
  • design: free rein.

What’s an architect to do? “Our work is methodical and stems from pragmatic means through the analysis of anthropometrics and human movements,” says Lim. The architects’ most immediate and daunting challenge was to integrate eighteen pieces of coffee paraphernalia and kitchen equipment, all the while making a comfortable space for both work and leisure.

With the exacting eye of a sculptor, Studio SKLIM has carved out a cavernous yet intimate and optimally ergonomic space in which voids become form. “The empty space in a coffee cup or matcha bowl was the form-giving inspiration for this café,” says Lim. High ceilings and circular geometries, punctuated by negative space, lay the land for seating booths, countertops, display shelves, overhanging canopies and, of course, the café’s workstation.

“Materiality is something very dear to the ethos of the studio,” says Lim. And in the case of Voids Café, concrete prevails. In one seamless, sweeping gesture the concrete counter flows into the floor. Plants emerge from small cracks cast into the powdered pink concrete countertop – “a playful detail inspired by weeds growing out of odd places” – bringing about an organic feel. Meanwhile, the canopy overhead has been rendered in a heavily textured stucco, inspired by the gritty consistency of coffee grounds, to create an appearance akin to an “anti-gravity ‘coffee cloud’”.

“We tried to promote the art of coffee and tea drinking through the engagement of all senses,” says the architect. Studio SKLIM has done just that, carving seated nooks into the counter, to bring about a closer interaction between customers and barista. From within these intimate and curved booth-like niches, one is close enough to fully experience the sacred ritual of coffee making.

Photography by Khoo Guo Jie

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