JWCC Architecture recently completed the design and fit out of a lobby space in commercial building the FIT, converting it into an elegant and popular café.
Macau-based architectural design firm JWCC Architecture has recently completed the design and fit out of a lobby space in commercial building the FIT, cleverly converting it into an elegant and popular café.
The 24-storey Finance and IT Center on Avenida Comercial de Macau, commonly known as the “FIT” is one of a handful of Grade A commercial buildings in Macau. Whilst only 10 years old the owners felt that in keeping with its status in the heart of Macau’s principle business district, it was time to give a facelift to the lobby area. Local design firm JWCC Architecture was awarded the job.
Co-founders and Principals Christine Choi and Jimmy Wardhana explain, “Many people admired the previous quality of the main entrance lobby and questioned why it was necessary to spend money on renovating it. But our client is a visionary and likes to stay a few steps ahead of the curve; he wanted to have an upgrade that would ensure the FIT matched an international benchmark of top class commercial buildings.”
The space has now been converted into a stunning café which has added another function to the building and provided an informal meeting space for guests and tenants. JWCC’s brief was to enable small intimate business groups to gather, but unlike the Starbucks in the nearby AIA building which is frequented by a younger, low-budget patron, “a different approach was taken for FIT; our job was to make the environment have a more premium feel and business focus”.
The project took a year and a half from engagement to completion. “Our client had a very particular vision for what he wanted and was very closely involved in every detail, which lengthened the process but made for a high quality finish.”
In traditional Chinese fashion the main entrance is an imposing structure. It incorporates vertical wood poles down one side with hidden lights that add curve, shadow and depth. They symbolize thick pieces of hanging rope and here is where the nautical theme is introduced.
FIT is owned by the Lai King Wan group (LKV), a subsidiary of the Fortuna Group which owns the Hotel Fortuna here in Macau, hence the hotel’s F&B division runs the café. The concept for the bar is that of a ship. It creates a story that expounds the company image: that of driving the company forward, being clear on direction, looking far ahead and navigating the way.
The actual bar of the café is the ship’s hull made of beautiful dark and gleaming stained rosewood.
The mast is a taupe coloured aluminum-clad round pillar in the center, and the sails are 4 huge mesh screens. The intention was to obscure the escalator behind but not have a solid heavy mass, so these copper-bronze (electroplated stainless steel) lattice panels give a lightness and transparency to the space. The lower parts of the sails double up as the menu.
Directly ahead, at the back of the café is a dramatic ceiling to floor feature wall. Stunningly striated marble with rich chocolate veins with a hint of burgundy, originally from Turkey but sourced by JWCC from China. To the right of this is a feature wall with a pattern that takes its inspiration from the stock exchange graphs – it is, after all, the Finance and IT building!
The marble floor, in two tones, cappuccino (how appropriate) mixed with a slightly paler desert beige marble, is laid in a way that represents wave patterns, enhancing the sense of the ship’s movement forward.
Running along the huge windows that line the entire length of the café is a work countertop, in calcatta marble. Sliding rosewood panels at the back of the counter open up to reveal phone and computer charging stations. The round backed pedestal stools, somewhat resembling a captains chair on a ship’s bridge are made of walnut.
To further enhance the sense of lightness to the space, most of the furniture is in light colour timber. Groups of lounge chairs, in pale rosewood, are placed around pale carrara marble-top coffee tables.
“We like to mix both soft and hard materials in our projects”, says Wardhana, and here we use the softness of a variety of timbers with the masculine metal element of stainless steel and stone. Some of the structural elements towards the ceiling have been left exposed which helps give an industrial boat-yard feel.” The exposed metal bracing of a long high-table further illustrates the boat-yard concept.
“We also like to create layers so as to give spaces multi dimensions” adds Choi. “We’ve introduced several sculptural pieces.” Hanging from the ceiling is a sculpture in polished stainless steel that was inspired by a cloud. At the entrance is a large white sculpture made of cast corian that forms a low barrier between the front door and people coming and going, and the start of the café. “It would have been nice to use marble but it would have been prohibitively expensive” she laughs. “Besides”, adds Wardhana, “with corian, its very durable, you don’t see the joints and maintenance is easier.”
JWCC’s attention to detail goes beyond the obvious …. up on the slanted ceiling above the cloud sculpture are round jet fan air-conditioning openings (fortuitously looking rather like portholes so as to tie in with the nautical theme!); these obviously couldn’t be moved so they have been sprayed taupe so as to match the column.
The underside of the first floor balconies behind and either side of the ‘ship’s hull’ from which one can look down on the café, have been curved. “We wanted to incorporate some curves, so that the forms are not too harshly angular”, explains Wardhana, “and these curves are highlighted with encased LED strip lights. We enjoy the play of light on surfaces and although the space has plenty of natural light in the day, our use of lighting is particularly important at night.
Clearly this project has been a labour of love for the JWCC team, a challenging but rewarding experience with the pleasurable outcome of seeing their work bring life to the owner’s brief. If you’re in the neighbourhood go check it out; the café is open 8.30am-6.30pm daily except Sunday.
Text and photographs by Ambiente’s managing director, Suzanne Watkinson, for Macau Closer magazine