Architect: OPN Architects, Inc.
Contractor: Ideal Builders
The owners of 5th Element Coffee approached the architect to design the company’s first coffee shop. Located in a first-floor unit of a mixed-use building adjacent to a university hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, the owners wanted to create a space that was more than just a conveyor belt of coffee; they wanted a space that promoted customer interaction, with one another, the servers behind the bar, and the physical elements of the space.
Accountability was a driving factor behind the concept of 5th Element Coffee. The design team utilized raw materials to reflect the company’s mission of being real and honest. The bar provides a public place for the community to gather and enjoy coffee and conversation in a rich, warm environment. The coffee bar is designed to build relationships: The barista can make drinks and never has to turn his or her back on the patron during service. Single origin, fair trade coffee is sourced from growers in San Salvador, El Salvador, and local ingredients and suppliers build community and complete the experience.
Old bowling alley lanes were reclaimed and re-purposed for the front bar, larger community tables in the rear, and as accents on the walls. The warm wood transitions to a galvanized sheet steel finish at the point of sale, which is further reinforced in the suspended ceiling plane above the counter made of large scale sheets of steel. This ceiling plane serves to mitigate the sound transmissions to the residential floor above. The walls were left raw, exposing bricks of concrete with steel paneling. The theme of authenticity pulls through every aspect of the design; not a single piece of plastic or drop of laminate was used.
In all, the elegant use of a few honest materials are leveraged to define the space, a design aesthetic in-line with the owner’s farm-to-table principle of using only the most authentic ingredients to create a pure flavor.
Every design decision was intentional; the owners and design team wanted to remind patrons of the connection between our consumption of resources and its impact on the earth. In addition to images of the farmers hung around the coffee shop, other elements reflect the company’s mission to keep things real and honest.
Photo: Main Street Studio