Fine Café is located in a traditional Hutong area near Gong Wang Fu, a prince’s mansion of the Qing Dynasty. In this renovation project, the architects intend to highlight the contrast between history and modern life, and between traditional Beijing architecture and European style.
Like many old residences in Beijing, the building is dug on level ground, descending about one metre. To take advantage of this extra space, a loft is built to divide the café into a lower space dominated by traditional Chinese style and an upper one by European elements.
The first floor is furnished with low wood tables and stools specially designed to recreate the traditional Hutong lifestyle. The tables are all manually polished so as to preserve the texture of the wood. Against the traditional furniture is the customer-made terrazzo, the dark green marble aggregates in which echoes the same colour extensively used in the café.
On their way to the second floor, customers will pass by a historical archway of grey bricks. This was not in the original design. When realizing that the load-bearing arch could not be demolished, the architects decided to preserve it so that the café blends with the environment, for the grey bricks are widely used in the surrounding Hutong area. Embedded in a shop serving coffee and pancakes, the arch gives quite a surprising effect.
Wood steps are installed as both sitting places and stairs leading to the French windows. In summer and autumn, the windows can be opened so that the interior of the café extends to the exterior. The split-level design, reinforced by multiple decorative mirrors, creates a complex, yet open and communicative space.