While it’s common to come across a café that spills out onto the sidewalk or into a plaza, we’ve never before seen a café where the road runs right through the café. We’re not talking about a drive-through café, which is common enough, but one whose floor is asphalt and covered in road markings. Café/day by Suppose Design Office does away with the usual boundaries between the street and interior spaces: a boundary that exists for obvious safety reasons. Without these boundaries in place, this café in Shizuoka, Japan is transformed into a space that is at once novel and familiar.
The creative force behind Suppose Design Office is founder Makoto Tanijiri. Since 2000, Tanijiri’s projects with Suppose have been investigations into how a building can reflect an ordinary environment in a new light. In his projects, he is always trying to find something new, while retaining enough familiarity that they don’t seem disconnected from their surroundings. His biography states that “the architect sometimes feels that society is dismissive of accepting modern ideas, and that is why he wants to explore something new but also familiar to human life.” Café/day, like many of his projects, is something totally new, but incorporates elements that are familiar to everyone.
Café/day is located on the ground floor of a residential building and flanked by a parking lot, driving school, and main road. While surveying the site, Tanjiri found inspiration in the colors and patterns of the roadways and school. A preponderance of the color yellow – found in the road markings, driving school cars, and driving course poles – was impossible to ignore and Tanijiri decided to extend the thematic color to the café’s decor. Likewise, asphalt roads are so visually dominating in this particular area that to Tanijiri “it felt like the road continued forever.” The notion of endless roads inspired the café’s most distinctive feature: the floor is replaced by asphalt that transitions seamlessly into the outside parking lot. Even the lane markings continue through the café so that it truly becomes an open café.
To further increase the effect of being both inside and outside at once, a large percentage of the walls along the parking lot were demolished and replaced by large sliding glass doors. With so few walls dividing the dining area from the parking lot, the distinction between the two is dramatically decreased. The road and transportation motif is elaborated even further in the café’s furnishings. Some of the benches and chairs were designed with simple wooden slats that resemble bus station benches, while others were fashioned out of modified car seats and given a yellow line down the middle. Aside from the road markings on the floor, yellow accents figure prominently in the café and establish a connection between the café and the driving school.
The curious title of the café, “Café/day,” was chosen after the design process. One of the central tenets of Tanijiri’s design philosophy is that naming can restrict the creative process and that a name should be derived from the way people use the space. According to Tanijiri, “When you give a name to an object it inherits the function of the name but if you design a place without a name then it is free to develop its own name by the occurring activities.” The title Café/day signifies a duality of space that is both a café and something much more mundane and ordinary; like the space itself, the name hovers somewhere in between the two. Think on this hard enough and you’ll certainly become a Zen master!