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How do you generate buzz for your latest lighting series during Milan Design Week, when countless product launches, cocktail events and eye-popping installations clamour for attention? That was the question facing Montreal’s Lambert & Fils, which in 2019 was presenting its Sainte collection, a line of coloured-glass pendant fixtures.

For an answer, the firm provided the one thing that everyone from overworked designers to over-walked journalists craves during the packed design extravaganza: a place to relax, grab a quick bite and maybe throw back a flute of prosecco. To that end, it commissioned the Italian firm DWA Design Studio to create Caffè Populaire, a unique experiential setting centred on the essentiality of food.

Taking over a former panettone factory, the space enticed with a simple message: Come for the food and conversation, stay for the design. And the design was magnificent. Suspended from the six-metre-high drop ceilings of the industrial space, the Sainte fixtures evoked ultramodern stained-glass windows.

“I love this project! It is such a treasure trove of textures and materials in a generous, un-precious space.”
Stephanie Davidson , AZ Awards juror

The genius of Caffè Populaire, which offered locally made nosh during the day before transforming into a private dinner venue at night, was to accommodate guests below the light clusters at stunning communal tables.

In particular, a massive, custom-crafted U-shaped table was topped with precast slabs of a composite material featuring compressed marble and granite dust, while a circular standing bar, lit from above by Lambert & Fils’ Hutchison pendants, was finished in a white and green terrazzo. (Both of the striking countertops were made by the Italian manufacturer Mariotti Fulget.) The bases of these pieces and their stools, finally, were painted a muted green.

With only a few stellar materials (albeit supersized and multiplied), DWA Design Studio fashioned a place where sensory-overloaded guests could both chill out and reaffirm their love of design, creating an anti-digital experience that elevated craft, tactility and the joy of just being there.

Location Milan, Italy  Firm  Lambert & Fils (Montreal, Canada) with DWA Design Studio (Milan, Italy) Team Samuel Lambert (Lambert & Fils) with Frederik de Wachter and Alberto Artesani (DWA Design Studio), Antoine Architectural Finishes, Mariotti Fulget and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

AZ Awards 2020 Winner: Caffè Populaire

Lambert & Fils enlisted DWA Design Group to create a stunning setting to exhibit its light fixtures in Milan. The result: this unforgettable space that took the Architecture: Temporary and Experiential Installations category.

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