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Dokkaffee 2.0

After its redesign in 2011, the Dokkaffee in Rotterdam proved structurally unsound. Dave Keune was roped in to share his vision for this robust meeting place. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 20-02-2014

Situated in the rather remote Rotterdam docklands named RDM (after the Rotterdam dry dock company), the new design for the Dokkaffee was meant to re-establish its former status as kantine for the RDM campus. In addition to its function as a café, the Dokkaffee also fulfils the role of exhibition space showing work relating to the area’s history. 

A previous design by architect Dik Houben saw the space filled with large, robust structures in a faded green. A series of booth clusters provided the necessary eating space and formed an interesting architectural statement within the large, open plan space. Unfortunately, due to safety regulations and a near roof collapse, the entire structure was brutally removed soon after.

Designer Dave Keune was then approached to create the redesign for the café using parts of the existing volumes. Instead of rebuilding the monolithic structure, Keune opted for a new concept which seems more in tune with the surrounding architecture. The faded greens have been combined with raw pine wood to form a juxtaposition of colour and texture yet many of the original shapes of the furniture have been kept. Colourful upholstery gives the interior character and complements the existing colours.

Although rather massive, Keune’s design provides a combination of privacy and group mentality. Private booths with high backrests provide a sense of cosiness, as do a series of tables hidden behind a pinewood screen. On the other hand, a massive pinewood table spanning some 12 metres echoes the harbour history of the place, allowing large groups to sit together and enjoy the atmosphere.

Part of the brief stated that all furniture was required to be mobile, quite the opposite of the original design. By mounting the booths on reclaimed shipping pallets, they can easily be moved with the use of pallet trucks by just one person. Other permanent looking features have been mounted on wheels, the stage for instance can be rolled away as if it were a large skateboard. 

The original brick walls, ancient heating system and reclaimed lighting give Dokkaffee an almost nostalgic feeling and the combination with pinewood and a series of classic modern chairs make it feel very contemporary. Lets hope the Dokkaffee 2.0 will be a timeless piece of design.

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