Tipico Coffee (Café Fargo)
The creation of space through energy is an age old principle. For example, the camp fire spending light and warmth in the center of a cave or a yurt, the use of animal body warmth to heat farmhouses or the centrally located cooking area, to which inhabitants retreated in winter. We used this approach to rehabilitate a space for a Café in Buffalo, New York.
With Café Fargo, we converted a formerly neglected corner store into a small coffee shop in a residential neighborhood of Buffalo, NY, USA. The former corner store, built in 1929, is a monolithic brick addition to the corner of a 3-story brick house built around 1880.
Typically, for a hospitality space a large amount of the construction budget goes into mechanical systems that provide a uniform indoor climate throughout the year. We took the opposite approach and transformed these invisible mechanical services into two experiential architectural elements. These elements emphasize the distinct pleasures of summer and winter and critically question the dictum of a uniform indoor climate. We built:
1) Extra-large operable windows and skylights that provide natural ventilation and passive cooling, and
2) A large-scale, wood burning kachelofen (masonry heater) which serves as the radiant heat source for the space.
Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire, 1590-97) stood as a case study for the project. This building features a dynamic inhabitation pattern, where occupation is constantly moving between its large fireplaces in winter and back into large bay windows in summer. Similarly, we unfolded the space of Café Fargo between extra-large operable sliding folding windows at the perimeter wall for summer ventilation and a large-scale Kachelofen at the core of the space. The heater wraps around the interior corner of the older house, whe¬re café patrons can huddle against the radiant cement surfaces.
The space is structured in three bands, wrapping around the corner of the historic house. The innermost band consists of the large-scale Kachelofen, which is constructed as a long, horizontal bench and a vertical tower. The tower also forms a spatial pocket that contains the bathroom. The Kachelofen bench is the longest in North America and was researched and developed in close collaboration with a local stove manufacturer. Another novelty is the use of microencapsulated phase change material in the outer shell of the stove to increase the thermal storage capacity and to limit temperature peaks.
The outermost band consists of the large-scale folding-sliding windows with thick oak sills extended into benches. The habitable perimeter blurs the barrier between inside and outside; opened-up, the space feels like a covered out¬door patio space.
The space between the windows and the stove provides an open seating area for ever-changing seating patterns. The custom desig¬ned lights are held-up on the old tin ceiling with magnets, and allow for the lighting patterns to change and following different seating arrangements throughout the year.
Because the space offers three different seating options at different heights – the window sills, the chairs and the stove bench, we designed a height adjustable table. The table top, fixed to a tripod base with a threaded rod, is able to be spun like a piano stool up or down to adapt to the different seating heights.
Apart from the two added elements (heater and window), the renovation consisted of stripping away the various floor and ceiling surfaces that had ac¬cumulated over the years, until we reached a surface with material integrity. We avoided any form of additional cladding, trimming or wall coverings. With this stripping-away approach, we made the space and its relationship to the older house, more legible.
The windows and the Kachelofen offer users powerful physical experi¬ences independent from any specific program, making it an alluring space for many more future uses. The project also tests an alternative to standard practices of climate conditioning.