% Arabica Coffee Shop – Shanghai, China

arabica_shanghai9The newly renovated % Arabica coffee shop in the Xuhui District of Shanghai is another perfect example of the Small is the New Big trend that we’ve been observing for several years.

Regardless of its 50-square-metre (538 sq.ft) size, the café glows especially at night like a precious gemstone in the shade of mature wutong or Chinese parasol trees lining West Jianguo Road. The bold design makes a clear statement and ignores the universally accepted canon of maximizing retail space.


Designed by Shuhei Aoyama and Yoko Fujii, founders of the Beijing-based B.L.U.E Architecture Studio, with team members Lingzi Liu, Yixin Yang and Masaya Kawashima, the café takes full advantage of the street front.


More remarkably, the designers resisted the temptation to cram in tables, chairs or even a bar or shelves. The shop is in essence a white counter, enclosed in a curved-glass case. In the front area is a small rock garden that further ‘wastes retail space’ and separates the café from the sidewalk. The street is wide and charming in a calm and time-honoured way as it is part of the French Concession.


We love the shop’s human scale that makes it stand out invitingly like a sculpture or a piece of art while the garden inside connects seamlessly with the trees lining the street.


% Arabica Coffee is an independent coffee brand from Kyoto, Japan, with 55 stores in 13 countries. Founder and owner Kenneth Shoji grew up traveling the world from Tokyo with his manufacturer-trader father and learned to love different cultures, design and architecture. Later, he studied in California and immersed himself in the Venice Beach subculture where he learned to depend daily on the newly expanding Starbucks brand.


Eventually Shoji started importing coffee beans and coffee roasting and espresso machines into Japan. In 2014, he started his own coffee brand, opening the first % Arabica café in Kyoto. The brand’s minimalist visual aesthetic is as beautifully expressed in this its latest shop renovation in Shanghai. Tuija Seipell


Photographs: Eiichi Kano


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