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Intelligentsia Wicker Park

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Creating community and enhancing customer experience.

The 950-square-foot Intelligentsia Wicker Park store uses a curated material palette and thoughtful lighting design to differentiate the experience of serving coffee from those being served.

Douglas fir is used throughout the store and finished in different ways to define space and function. Pickled vertical slats line the café walls to create a soft warm shell, while ebonized and oiled wood define the various functions within the space. Conceived as a Matryoshka Doll, the coffee bar is nestled inside a Douglas fir volume whose ‘top’ has been lifted. The ‘top’ is set at eight feet high providing a more intimate experience between barista and customer. Highlighting the lab-like quality of Intelligentsia’s process, white quartz counter tops and an illuminated polycarbonate ceiling create the lining inside the nesting doll and further distinguish and define the coffee bar.

The coffee bar’s wooden volume is positioned at the rear of the space to decrease the perceptual depth of the café’s interior, foreshorten the seating space, and create a much more substantial presence at the sidewalk. A field of suspended incandescent light fixtures runs through the entire store creating a warm and intimate environment.

The seating area, defined by a long communal table and a bench which wraps the perimeter, is primarily comprised of a series of red stools designed specifically for this location. The stools of various shapes and scale are designed to be used as seating, side table, or work surface and are easily reconfigured allowing for a dynamic seating area that changes with the current inhabitants. The stools are also rearranged each night by the baristas to act as an impromptu window sculpture while the store is closed, creating a unique experience upon each visit and enlivening an otherwise dark storefront when the shop is closed.

MEP Engineer: Building Engineering Systems, BES
General Contractor: Power Construction
Photographer: Steve Hall – Hedrich Blessing