Flask and The Press
Monday 19 Jan 2015


Alberto Caiola presents unconventional venue Flask and The Press, a design project that upends the traditional speakeasy concept. Here, an intimate contemporary lounge is concealed behind the façade of a cheery sandwich shop, a combination that juxtaposes light and dark, elegance and modernity, personal and playful.

Considering that Shanghai has many hidden speakeasy-themed bars and lounges, the designer and his client decided to shape Flask and The Press in an entirely unexpected fashion. In order to maximise impact, they wanted to execute the project in a fundamentally different, distinct way, building expectations and genuine surprise by creating contradictory, anachronistic aesthetics.

As a result, Caiola created The Press, a colourful sandwich shop. The traditional diner setting of The Press is familiar, but with a number of edgier, more contemporary details that call for a second look. The smooth, finished countertops in colourful 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 inspires curiosity in the space. The centrepiece of the room is a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine, which is split vertically to swing open and reveal the entrance to Flask. 

Stepping into the tunnel between The Press and Flask, the visitor experiences an extreme contrast in environment, stepping through a mysterious space with warm, muted lighting and the murmurs of bar patrons to invite further curiosity. 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. 

Continuing the play on eras and expectations, a number of contemporary intrusions were integrated throughout Flask. The first of these is a striking drop ceiling: an array of angular cubes cascading towards the entrance creates a mysterious allure for guests to further explore the space. There are also two impressive installations featuring bottles of liquor.

The rest of the space 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 lighting arrangement in the inside of the drop ceiling, which diffuses subtle amber light from the overhead. This light reflects off of the cascading cubes on the other end of Flask, creating an overall glowing effect that lifts the conventionally imposing feeling of low ceilings.

Alberto Caiola


more projects by this designer