The story behind a certain Taipei coffee shop is one that features a couple of quirkily named characters. First, there’s the client: Fifteen Steps Workshop. They wanted a distinctive location in the bustling XinYi District — a unique destination in a saturated, and over-caffeinated, market. So they turned to Phoebe Says Wow Architects, the firm co-founded by Phoebe Wen and Shihhwa Hung, which delivered a minimal yet vibrant concept.
In essence, FSW wanted a brand-boosting shop, and one that contained semi-private areas – including an enclosed roastery and an invite-only café with a “behind-the-scenes” vibe – rather than a free-flowing open-floor plan.
To meet these two challenges, the firm turned to inventive geometry and versatile polycarbonate to carve up the 80-square-metre space with curved and rectilinear walls. They also chose a minimal palette with maximal effect, contrasting the soft white of the sheeting material with a punchy yellow for the steel frames that delineate each curve and angle — as if someone had pressed a yellow highlighter around a ghostly blueprint.
They started with the facade; wrapped in white, semi-opaque polycarbonate panels outlined in citron, the grade-level entrance signals a new identity for the mixed-use building.
A takeout window at the front allows for quick service — customers can enjoy a quick-serve coffee at a slender wood counter spanning the width of the open-air vestibule — while the front steps and landing invite patrons to sit down and stay awhile. A jaunty little side window entices people passing by the pedestrian-oriented corner of the building.
An economical solution, the polycarbonate panels also, of course, divide the interior. There, they create both privacy and allow light to diffuse for what the architects call “an incredible illuminating effect” that varies throughout the day. (The firm also says that their use allows for less reliance on air conditioning.)
The carved floor plan emphasizes the interior’s many functions and experiences. From pour-overs enjoyed in the plant-filled “behind-the-scenes” area to the cupping seminars and lecture programs hosted there on occasion, the various activities, and the animated silhouettes they create, can be glimpsed by passersby, morning through evening.
Designed by Phoebe Says Wow Architects, the yellow-framed shop entices customers on a busy strip of the Taiwanese capital.