Raams Architecture Studio has used white MDF blocks to line the Mini Cuppa cafe in Shanghai, China, in homage to the modular cube system employed by Frank Lloyd Wright across his seminal Textile Block Houses.
Located in a newly developed area in west Shanghai, the 90-square-metre shop sells cheese tea – a cold infusion blended with seasonal fruits and topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese.
According to the studio, the tea is traditionally consumed by the older generation in China and is generally more popular among men. But Mini Cuppa was designed to be an inclusive space that appeals to different generations and genders.
In a nod to cream cheese as the cafe’s key ingredient, its airy interior is cast predominantly in white and accented with reeded glazing, marble tabletops and bright blue upholstered seating.
Mini Cuppa’s counter, facade and interior walls are lined with 388 blocks of white-lacquered MDF, which was cut with a CNC router and stacked in parallel rows using magnets.
This construction was informed by the modular, patterned concrete blocks that American modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright used in the 1920s to form his quartet of Textile Block Houses.
“The simple assembled system can adapt to the brand’s future spaces, creating infinite layouts and making each shop feel similar but new and unique,” said Raams Architecture Studio, which was founded by German Roig and Natalia Moreno in 2018.
“The framed facade is an eye-catching element that attracts people passing by and distinguishes Mini Cuppa from the neighbouring shops.”
A selection of the blocks is illustrated with hand-drawn graphics, created by Roig to represent the practical steps and sensory experience of making tea.
Reeded glass windows turn the garden outside into a calm, blurred green backdrop while creating a sense of privacy for the customers inside.
The shop’s custom furniture was designed and produced by Raams Architecture Studio, which is based between Shanghai and Valencia.
This includes the tables with their pink marble tops as well as the tubular white seating, upholstered in vibrant indigo blue.
Large slabs of peachy-pink marble are mounted on the walls to match the tabletops and frame the built-in benches.
A curved, 3.5-metre-long table sits at the centre of the space, nodding to the communal dining culture of China and the Mediterranean.
In the middle of the table, a customised plant bed serves as a visual divide and creates a greater sense of privacy.
In Bangkok, Austrian architecture studio Precht used a similar approach when designing a cafe for coffee brand % Arabica. Its interior features more than 7,000 handmade bricks that form the floors, walls and stepped seating.
Photography is by DING Yuhao.