Walking past the new Aera gluten-free bakery in Berlin, one would be remiss not to stop and observe the building’s striking azure facade. Located in Rosenthaler Platz, a prominent location in the city’s downtown core, the new storefront — the second for Berlin’s Aera — was designed by local studio Gonzalez Haase. The firm’s specialization in lighting and conceptual interiors is evident in their penchant for dramatic colour and stark illumination — both elements that make this storefront seem more like a high-end department store than a bakery.
The designers were inspired by 17th century painters and their liberal use of colour, notably Jan Vermeer and his striking use of blue — prominently featured, for instance, in Girl with a Pearl Earring. The pure Lapis Lazuli tint, also known as ultramarine, was one of the finest and most expensive pigments used by 17th century painters. It was known to dominate any painting it was applied to — and it certainly dominates the space here. “The powerful, uniform colour scheme works as the background of a painting, allowing the true subject to really come into its own,” explains the firm’s co-owner, Judith Haase.
Monotone concrete, applied evenly in 80-centimetre strips, forms the diagonal counter than runs through the rectilinear space. Separating the storefront in half, it visually merges with the walls and the floor beneath it in a quasi-organic, continuous shape. Behind the counter, display carts, baskets and floating shelves hold the star attraction: Aera’s gluten-free confections, including their locally famous sourdough bread.
The designers were especially concerned with the interplay between colour, light and shadow. The combination of LED strips embedded right into the ceiling and ample natural light let in via the generous window at the shop’s front alter the quality of the concrete throughout the day — from matte to glossy, light to dark, natural to fabricated. The baked goods, meanwhile, stand out from the background: “Their warm-gold colour appears as a complementary, punctuated element in the space,” says Haase.
Custom-made solid oak furniture by Gonzalez Haase — including chunky table-like stools arranged along the wall opposite the counter — offers generous seating options without interrupting the room’s symmetry.
Apart from the oak benches, the only contrast to the blue concrete is found in the sparkling stainless-steel appliances and fixtures dotting the interior. Behind the counter, the studio installed shelving made of electropolished steel — a process which removes free iron and contaminants from the material, keeping the food pathogen-free.
A 3.8-metre-high ceiling allows the length of the shop to be viewed through the storefront window. Passersby are likely to be tempted by the deliberate turn away from the quaint, cutesy bakery typology — fitting for a brand that peddles bread without one of bread’s core ingredients.
A new project by Gonzalez Haase takes cues from 17th century paintings to create a backdrop for Aera, a gluten-free destination.