nicolas dorval bory and raphael betillon: the atmosphere of paris cafes
nicolas dorval bory and raphael betillon: the atmosphere of paris cafes nicolas dorval bory and raphael betillon: the atmosphere of paris cafes
nov 22, 2010

nicolas dorval bory and raphael betillon: the atmosphere of paris cafes

l’atmosphere des cafes – rendering all images courtesy of dorval-bory

since the seventeenth century, when literary cafés emerged, the cultural history of paris has been linked to the alcoves and the counters of its taverns. considered places of intense life and intellectual dynamism, the parisian cafes vibrate with their noisy ambience, within often smoky atmospheres generated by patrons.

nicolas dorval bory and raphael bétillon architects feels that parisian bistros are often disappointing, with decors catered towards tourists, when the lively atmosphere of a café has the potential to fill the place on its own. they were approached by a famous owner of bars and restaurants in bastille (paris) to explore the evansecent atmosphere of his establishments.

for the project the architects felt they needed to ward off the yoked draperies and gilded woodwork, usually praised by café owners and decorators, and develop a reflection of the discrete and chemical elements that make up this environment.

they looked at issues posed by architect philippe rahm such as: ‘might not climate be a new architectural language, a language for rethought with meterology in mind? might it be possible to imagine climatic phenomena such as convection, conduction or evaporation, for example, as new tools for architectural composition? could vapor, heat or light become the new bricks of contemporary construction?‘

dorval-bory / béttilon’s intervention draws on the control and expression of these atmospheric bodies, where architecture splits in two. on one hand, a built layout is designed as a structuring machine, with a controlling back frame. on the other hand something more fluid – flows, phenomenons and invisible particles. they have designed a ‘real’ atmosphere, whose balance is governed by variations in pressure, flows, chemical properties of a particular area in tension with the presence of people. the space of the café is divided into five distinct programmatic parts. five situations each with unique atmospheric features.

the entire design fits between two horizontal metal grids, defining a continuous plenum that allows a complete circulation through the space, guided by convective motions. the journey is initiated in a ‘dynamic chamber’ in which polarized hot and cold springs create a barometric imbalance, and air volume gradually spreads in every room of the place, where its properties will be modified.

dynamic flows chamber

dynamic flows chamber in this confined space, air is simply moved by the thermal contrast of two bubbles of light, one radiating in the infrared, the other completely cold. this strange place shows the gap between wavelengths of radiation, creating a visual and spatial instability that challenges café patrons. the volume of air in the upper and lower plenums is irradiated by adjacent lamps. these temperature variations begin the movement of the shifting of air through the space.

thermal exchange bar

thermal exchange bar the bar is the second area flooded by the previous blast air originating from the ‘dynamic chamber’. this is a place for exchanging, chatting, dancing or drinking, singularly marked by the presence of a strong element that defines its use: the counter. a purely functional piece of furniture, the bar counter is mostly an interface that allows the acquisition of beverages, in which they have defined by a heat exchange device. its shape is dictated by its pure function: a thermal interface capable of gathering the heat radiating from customers bodies. channeled, this calorific energy is then recycled into cold through an absorption chiller that makes ice used to refrigerate forthcoming cocktails. more than a clever distribution of various equipments, the sound system here is designed as a uniform network, a visible yet changing swarm. the air vibration here is the central feature, far more than the standard design of the system.    

air filtration restaurant

air filtration restaurant a meal is never an insignificant matter. chefs likes to create a healthy environment for which people can enjoy his dishes. if decorum is overdone, the immediate environment of the food must be perfect and neutral. one might try to create a white and neutral sensitive environment for every meal that includes: white tablecloths and plates, neutral light, sound and air. it is particularly the last point will be worked in this space, neutralization and purification of the incoming air, through a filtering gap device. through large propellers, the street facade inhales outdoor polluted air from the place de la bastille. in a dilated glass area between the inside and the outside, some kind of narrow temperate greenhouse, is grows a whole ecosystem consisting of plants selected for their decontaminating and purifying properties. through this absorbent garden, air is purified from odors and toxins and then is injected into the restaurant, providing a neutral and healthy atmospheric base to the whole place.

anechoic boudoir

anechoic boudoir away from the bustle of the bar, there must be a quiet, more intimate space where secret conversations are held. in the boudoir, the sound is the main atmospheric component, the one that dictates shape to space. despite the principle of air circulation and visual fluidity in the café, the boudoir space must be completely insulated from noise. for this purpose, a design inspired by anechoic chambers is created in this small room. thus trapped in the convolutions of the acoustic foam surrounding the area. sound emitted by the users and the musical devices do not leave the confidential perimeter of this room.

hormonal smoking chamber

hormonal smoking chamber with the recent restrictions on smoking, having a cigarette inside a bar is often prohibited. yet, if they are designed as isolated rooms, smoking chambers (or fumoirs) now fit between the lines of regulations in such establishments. for the fumoir of their café, the architects wanted to think about the isolation caused by these regulations in order to find an invisible link between this closed chamber and the rest of the place. it is well known that smoking cuts hunger, yet our program is a café/restaurant. thus, isolated smokers in the fumoir are hormonally predisposed to ignore the dining function of the place. recent studies on the production of CCK (cholecystokinin, a hormone of hunger) indicates that a short exposure to low temperatures can strongly stimulate hunger. thus, the smoking chamber will be chilled by the ground, with a powerful fume extraction, evacuating through a glass double skin. the architecture of the fumoir is then entirely dedicated to rebalancing effects of smoking on the body, to reconnect users with the basic function of the place.

general plan

  • a cool work.

    i respect these guys and the project is nice, but i am starting to get concerned that they resemble p. rahm’s work too much?

    gaque says:
  • thanks a lot,

    we do agree that this project is quite similar to philippe rahm’s work, as we really try to follow his path, but in our own way (and for sure not at his level!). We know him a little bit and he knows us, and he has been a clear inspiration for us since years. However we try to build something different using the same tools, maybe it’s not clear now but it hopefully will!

    Nicolas DB says:
  • most intriguing

    dbkii says:
  • Scientifically brilliant, but the minimalist atmosphere created was so cold, while reading th article, I needed to reach for a sweater. Sometimes, while waiting for someone, or in a lull in the conversation, noticing surrounding interesting architectural features, is part of the whole experience.

    Gersil N. Kay, IESNA says:
  • Feels like a bad trip

    chris says:

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