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The Atmosphere of Paris Cafes

The Atmosphere of Paris Cafes

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Nicolas Dorval-Bory Architecte

L’ATMOSPHERE DES CAFES PARISIENS

-Architects : Nicolas Dorval-Bory, Raphaël Bétillon

Since the seventeenth century, time of the emergence of literary cafes, the cultural history of Paris has been linked to the alcoves and the counters of its taverns. Places of intense life and intellectual dynamism, the Parisian cafes vibrated with hushed or noisy ambiance, stimulating and often smoky atmospheres generated by their users and also perhaps by an intangible part, more inherent to the place.

Today, Parisian bistros are often disappointing, stuck up in ornaments of another century, mimicking with decors for tourists times when the lively creative atmosphere filled the place alone.

When we were approached by a famous owner of bars and restaurants for a project in Bastille (Paris), our idea was to explore this special and evanescent atmosphere. To this end, we needed to ward off the yoke of draperies and gilded woodwork (usually praised by café owners and décorateurs) to develop a reflection about invisible and yet tangible elements of such a place, discrete and chemical elements that make up this environment, à la manière de Philippe Rahm who asks: "Might not climate be a new architectural language, a language for architecture rethought with meteorology 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?"

Our intervention would then be about the control and expression of these atmospheric bodies, a contemporary way to celebrate climate as the primary user's envelope. Architecture would split into two : on one hand, a built layout designed as a structuring machine, a back frame controlling, on the other hand, flows, phenomenons and invisible particles.

Thus, the place is designed like, literally, a real atmosphere whose balance is governed by variations in pressure, flows, chemical properties of a particular area in tension with the presence of users. The space of the café is then divided into five distinct programmatic parts, five situations each with unique atmospheric features.

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