This atmospheric new ‘Caffeine Laboratory’ is the work of Nettleton Architects at the request of a Colombian coffee bean roaster, distributor and grower with a passion for graphic novels. The client (Simon) was looking to open an offbeat new watering hole in Surry Hills, Sydney incorporating his love of comic characters.
Louise Nettleton, Founder of Nettleton Architects, explains: “He wanted a dark and grungy den-like cave. It suits the ephemeral and theatrical sense of this part of the city.” The district of Surry Hills is located to the south east of Sydney’s CBD and blends boutiques and quirky restaurants with creative businesses.
Melbourne illustrator, painter and street artist Heesco was invited to put his stamp on the Caffeine Laboratory. He details: “Basically Simon, the owner, is fanatically into the Joker… So we came up with a character of The Mad Professor, which is a scientific version of the Joker, pretty much… This is my version of The Dark Knight Returns, Judge Dredd and Sin City combined.”
Given the very modest site for this new coffee shop - a 3.5m wide by 15m deep space that was formerly used as a driveway - the design team was forced to get creative. As a result, the outlet is standing room only with small custom-designed steel benches by Nettleton Architects attached to one wall, projecting away from the surface to protect Heesco’s graphics.
On the opposite side is an industrial style counter topped with recycled Glulam timber. Lighting the coffee shop is an unusual fixture incorporating Edison Light Globes set in long rusted steel cages, crafted using steel reinforcing bars usually found in concrete construction. These have been set into the concrete slab floor of the music school above due to their heavy weight.