Caffè Populaire

Designed by: DWA Design Studio (Space) + Lambert & Fils (Lighting)
For client: Lambert & Fils and DWA Design Studio Floor area: 165.00 M² Year of completion: 2019
Submitted for: Bar of the Year

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© Arseni Khamzin

View of the space with the silver covered wall in the background, hiding the kitchen and service spaces.

About the Project

Caffè Populaire began as a means to disrupt the expectations of traditional design exhibitions. Amidst the hustle of Milan’s design week, we sought to offer sanctuary, hospitality, and genuine human connection — coupled with the inspiring forms of two new contemporary lighting collections.
The custom U-table was made from pre-cast slabs of Silipol fragments composed in a palladiana pattern— an hommage to the Milan entryways. A circular standing bar featured white and green terrazzo and was lit by the circle of Hutchinson lamps, forming with their thin strings an invisible column. The coloured layers of glass of the Sainte lamps created an abstract 'painting' against the rectangular tactile plaster backdrop on the wall. A silver column contained a red room where the older lamp collections were showed, all executed in raw aluminium.
Also the wall that hid the kitchen was clad with a silver screen fabric normally used as sunscreens for greenhouses.
The structure of the community table and all stools also received a tactile plaster finish in pale green.
Meals were served on Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s Caractère collection, designed for Revol and tables were decorated with bronze flora blocks created by the emerging Toronto design studio Mercury Bureau.
In addition to the regular public hours, Caffè Populaire also hosted Dinner Populaire, where an experimental limited-edition pasta by Milanese creative studio Casalinghe di Tokyo and designer Chiara Andreatti was served.

What’s unique about it

Caffè Populaire was designed to harness the spirit of the anti-digital. More than an Instagram wall or a photo op, we wanted to create a space of presentness, powered by food and the impactful design that would surround its visitors.

The defunct factory — filled with hills of spontaneous green — was turned into a series of intimate spaces, each defined by its own palette and lighting installation. One could turn the corner to encounter a dramatic red room filled with elegant chandeliers and suspension lights, pull up a seat at the U-shaped dining table in the main room, or take a moment to linger at the terrazzo bar.
The U shaped surface of the community table was the eyecatcher of the caffè. Fragments of silipol - a cement based material mixed with marble powder and pigments that was used in the 50s by Franco Albini as wall cladding for the Milanese metrostations - have been composed by hand into slabs reminding the palladiana common in the local entryways.

Serving meals presented another series of challenges — but was key to creating the much-needed community space that would break Fuorisalone visitors away from their phone screens, encourage them to slow down, feed themselves, and have a conversation with a stranger. Over six days, Caffè Populaire hosted nearly 5,000 visitors from around the world for parties, performances, meals, talks and more, fulfilling its mission to exist as a space celebrating potential — solely activated by the human encounters within.

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© Arseni Khamzin

Dinner Populaire at the U shaped table in Silipol palladiana

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© Arseni Khamzin

The circular bar made in Alpi green and Carrara white terrazzo

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© Arseni Khamzin

The community table with seven Sainte lamps having above

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© Arseni Khamzin

Tha Caffè Populaire during opening times

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© Arseni Khamzin

Detail of the surface of the U shaped table in Silipol palladiana

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© Arseni Khamzin

View of the space with the silver tower in the background

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© Arseni Khamzin

The coloured layers of glass of the Sainte lamps against the tactile plaster rectangle on the factory wall

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© Arseni Khamzin

General view of the space at Alcova, a defunct panettone factory

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© Arseni Khamzin

General view of the space with the circular bar and U shaped community table

Footage of making of and final installation by Arseni Khamzin

Location of project:
DWA Design Studio

Lambert & Fils

Mariotti Fulget

Antoine Architectural surfaces

Terre D'oltrepo

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