Café Fargo converts a formerly neglected corner store into a small coffee shop in residential Buffalo, New York, USA. The original corner store, built in 1929, is a monolithic brick addition to the corner of a 3-story house built around 1880.Working with a tight budget, and to avoid the large amount of construction cost associated with climate control systems, we decided to make these systems an integral part of the space. During warm months, extra-large operable windows and skylights open the space to provide natural ventilation and passive cooling. For winter months, a large-scale wood burning Kachelofen (masonry heater) provides a radiant heat source. Using these low-tech and experientially rich elements, they are able to eliminate the need, and cost, of any ductwork while leaving the restored tin ceiling unobstructed. The café is structured in three bands. The innermost band consists of the Kachelofen, which is constructed as a long, horizontal bench and a vertical tower. The tower, which forms a spatial pocket, contains the bathroom. Opposite, the outermost band includes the large sliding windows, with thick oak sills extended into benches. By blurring the barrier between interior and exterior the area feels like a covered patio. The third band contains the space between, providing an open seating area for ever-changing seating patterns. The custom designed lights are held-up on the restored tin ceiling with magnets, and allow for the lighting patterns to adapt as seating arrangements migrate by season. To aid in the transition of seating, the ‘team’ designed a height-adjustable table. Apart from the two added elements (heater and window), the renovation consisted mainly of stripping away the various floor, wall and ceiling surfaces until we reached a surface with material integrity. As elements were stripped away, the relationship to the older house became more legible.
Georg Rafailidis received his architectural diploma from the University of Applied Sciences in Munich Germany and a Master of Arts from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, England. Rafailidis was assistant professor at the RWTH University in Aachen Germany and is currently teaching at SUNY USA. He worked for Herzog & de Meuron in Basel and London before setting up the independent practice, Davidson Rafailidis, with his partner Stephanie Davidson in 2009.