alberto caiola hides flask cocktail bar behind a coke vending machine
alberto caiola hides flask cocktail bar behind a coke vending machine
jan 15, 2015
alberto caiola hides flask cocktail bar behind a coke vending machine


alberto caiola hides flask cocktail bar behind a coke vending machine
photo © shen zhonghai
all images courtesy of alberto caiola

 

 

 

‘flask and the press’ is an unconventional duo that upends the traditional speakeasy concept: an intimate contemporary lounge concealed behind the façade of a sandwich shop. together, they’re a juxtaposition of light and dark, elegance and funkyness, personal and playful.

 

aiming to launch a speakeasy in the heart of shanghai’s former french concession, mixologists and their partners commissioned alberto caiola the development of the concept, location scouting and its space design. ‘considering that shanghai has already seen its fair share of hidden speakeasy-themed bars and lounges we decided to build suspense and break it in an entirely unexpected fashion,’ says caiola. ‘in order to maximize impact, we would need to execute the project in a fundamentally different, distinct way, building expectations and genuine surprise by creating contradictory, anachronistic aesthetics. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
‘the press’ sandwich bar at the storefront of ‘flask’ 
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

‘as a result, we created ‘the press’, a colorful sandwich shop,’ the architect adds. at first glance, the traditional diner setting looks immediately familiar to passersby, but a number of more contemporary details call for a second look: the smooth, finished countertops in bright shades, neon lighting strips, and polished minimalism of the furnishings set against unfinished walls, rough concrete walls and floors, plus a dramatic, asymmetrical drop ceiling, create an unconventional scene that encourages curiosity in the space. the centerpiece of the room is a vintage coca-cola vending machine, which is split vertically to swing open and reveal the entrance to ‘flask’. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the coca cola vending machine functions as a camouflage door to the cocktail bar
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

stepping into the tunnel between the main programs, the visitor experiences an extreme contrast in environment. the fun, lighthearted feel, the bright colors and lighting — within a few steps, these elements segue into a mysterious space with warm, muted illuminance and the murmurs of bar patrons to invite further interest. following the camouflage door, the patron is presented with more visual cues of the traditional speakeasy: elaborate displays of bottles of liquor, a blend of dark and dim, plus a motley crew of furniture pieces that hints at the evanescence of these establishments as they were in the past. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
‘flask’ entrance view
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

continuing the play on eras and expectations, a number of contemporary intrusions are integrated into the project. the first of these is a drop ceiling: an array of angular cubes cascading towards the entrance creates a mysterious allure for guests to further explore the restaurant. ‘we also created two installations featuring bottles of liquor. the first is a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit standing right next to the entrance, with 25-liter whiskey bottles that has a built-in spotlight on each bottle to illuminate the amber glow of the liquid inside. the second is a wall installation featuring rows of flasks that are hidden behind a mysterious layer—like the speakeasy itself, the surfaces of these flasks are hidden, with only the outline of their shapes to give the viewer an idea of what lies beneath.’

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the drop ceiling of angular cubes adds character to the space
photo © shen zhonghai

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the installation of 25-liter whiskey bottles acts as a partition adjacent to a lounge
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

the rest of the interior is designed to feel private and personal. lighting is kept minimal and muted, with several base points throughout the venue each emitting a warm glow of light that bounces off one another. the most prominent of these is the copper fixture arrangement in the inside of the canopy, which diffuses subtle amber from the overhead. this brightness reflects off of the cascading volumes on the other end of ‘flask’, granting an overall glowing effect that lifts the conventionally imposing feeling of low ceilings. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the copper fixture arrangement diffuses subtle amber from the overhead
photo © shen zhonghai 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the glowing effect lifts the conventionally imposing feeling of low ceilings
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

LED lights against the mirrored backdrop of the bar counter project the bottles on display back to the patrons, evoking an illusion of depth that makes the wall seem to disappear. this slanted plane also faces the entrance so that visitors looking straight ahead will see the flow of overhead cubes wrapping around his of her head, giving another subtle visual pull. on the far side of the space, a large convex surface reflects the entire bar back onto itself. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
a large convex surface reflects the entire bar back onto itself
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

 

to add to the warm, cozy atmosphere, partitions in the seating area that transition with natural ease were constructed. looking from the right side to the left, the heights of the seats and tabletops are lowered, raised, and lowered again in increments to provide a dynamic landscape within a compact, enclosed interior. similarly, the wooden floorboards parallel this fluid movement by going from dark, to light and back to darker wood. 

alberto caiola the press flask bar inside vending machine shanghai china designboom
the heights of the seats and tabletops are lowered, raised, and lowered again in increments to provide a dynamic landscape
photo © shen zhonghai

 

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.  

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architecture in china (296 articles)