Architect: Rinka Chung Architecture Inc.
Owner: Lowlands Group
Contractor: Venture Construction Group and 360 Degrees LLC
The growing Café Hollander brand finds its latest home in Mequon with a stunning new two story building that marks the prominent corner of the Mequon Town Center development. The project has reached a new architectural benchmark in the European-inspired neighborhood cafe model. The restaurant boasts a two-story back-bar, a unique outdoor covered bike storage feature, an outdoor Petanque court, and operable doors and windows on nearly every wall that expand out to abundant patios. The various outdoor courtyards total to over 3,700 square feet and provide a variety of different experiences. The main level contains the bar and dining areas for over 140 guests with an additional 220 outdoor dining seats on the courtyards. The service spaces are positioned on the west side of the building, the least prominent side, in an attempt to maximize street activation by keeping the main activities on the east street corner. The second floor contains indoor/outdoor seating for another 150 dining guests and a large open to below space to bring additional natural light into the core of the building.
The restaurant is located on a prominent high activity corner site previously occupied by a gas station. The restaurant is part of a larger project known as Mequon Town Center and is the anchor tenant for the development. The design and configuration of the building on the site allows for incredible outdoor dining experiences while at the same time shielding the occupants from the busy vehicular traffic on Mequon Road. The site is located within one block of the Ozaukee Interurban Bike Trail that extends all the way from southeastern Wisconsin. In response to the desire to increase bike usage in this otherwise suburban area the restaurant boasts a unique bike “corral” situated in a prominent outdoor area directly adjacent to the main entrance. With virtually no zoning constraints (zero setbacks) the site allowed for an urban architectural typology of vibrant activity and visual openness.
The design of this uniquely branded restaurant aims to provide an urban feel and experience to a suburban site while activating the street corner. The major presence of the building generates architectural interest for the passerby. The true design solution is looking at the negative space in the center of the building as the center point where all activity occurs. The architecture is wrapped around this negative volume which acts as the linking element of the building. The physical elements of the architecture and the negative space intertwine to create a special relationship of solid and void. The desired outcome of the design uses the negative space to carve away the architecture and reveal the true spaces for the user. The use of highly customized operable glass walls and garage doors brings ample natural light into all the dining areas. The interior design of the space consists of reclaimed wood, exposed steel structure, vintage signs and wall graphics to create a strong brand identity that recall the feel and atmosphere of the original Milwaukee location while making a gesture to the future of the Café Hollander experience.
The project brings an urban experience to a suburban neighborhood where you would typically find car oriented development. The design nods towards the future of human interaction and accessibility by supporting cycling and outdoor dining experiences. The building responded to a variety of unique site opportunities to create a restaurant that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor. The design of the negative space as the focal point that ties the architecture together shapes the user’s experience. This Hollander location is the second standalone building by the Lowlands restaurant group. The design of this building exemplifies an evolution of the architecture in a progressive and fresh way.
Photos: Richard Ebbers