BLUE Architecture Studio erects rock columns inside Zolaism Café


Structural columns disguised as huge, craggy rocks dominate the interior of this cafe designed by BLUE Architecture Studio in the Chinese resort town of Aranya.

Zolaism Cafe is located in a coastal area of ​​Qinhuangdao City known as Aranya Gold Coast, a short drive from Beijing.

Zolaism Café features rock-shaped columns

The cafe has a flat, white-painted roof and glass walls that run through and around its four rock-shaped columns.

Made from glass reinforced concrete (GRC), the columns were introduced by BLUE Architecture Studio to make the cafe’s interiors more like a natural landscape.

Cafe in Aranya by BLUE Architecture Studio with white chairs and tables behind a glass wall that ends in a rock shaped column
The glass walls of the cafe pass through and surround the columns

“In the big world, humans are a lonely little entity,” explained the Beijing-based practice.

“The tranquility and vastness of nature helps people escape the hustle and bustle of city life and come to themselves.”

Rather than relying on computer software to plan the shape of the columns, the studio designed each column by hand.

Growing larger models, first in foam and then in clay, helped the studio decide how the columns would be shaped and laid out in the cafe.

Entrance to Zolaism Café with boat-hole window in the wall
Glass reinforced concrete was used to make the columns

Shovels and various other tools were used to give the columns their rough-hewn surface finish.

“The whole building process was full of unknowns and uncertainties,” the studio said. “To a certain extent, we have given up overall control of architectural form. Instead, we let our hands think and let the design go with the flow.

Rock shaped cafe columns in Aranya designed by BLUE Architecture Studio
Thick ledges at the bottom of the column provide customers with a place to sit

Once the shapes were finalized, the studio created molds and filled them with GRC, which was chosen for the stark contrast it offers with the delicate glass walls.

On site, the column elements were assembled around steel support pillars.

Two of the four columns are hollow to accommodate more intimate seating that can be entered through arched doors.

Inside, they’re sparsely furnished with benches and paper lanterns while small portholes offer views of the cafe and the street beyond.

White table and chairs at Zolaism Café next to a glass wall and surrounded by rock-shaped columns
The cafe also has a handful of simple white chairs and tables

Additional chairs and simple white dining tables have been sprinkled throughout the rest of the Zolaism cafe in an effort to give the floor plan a flowing feel.

Guests also have the option of sitting on the thick ledges that are carved into the base of the columns or the sturdy, low GRC blocks that form benches on the cafe’s outdoor patio.

Running the length of the back wall of the cafe is a service counter, painted gray to match the tone of the columns and floors.

Sitting area inside a rock-like concrete column designed by BLUE Architecture Studio
Some of the columns are hollow to accommodate intimate dining areas

BLUE Architecture Studio was created by architects Yoko Fujii and Shuhei Aoyama in 2014.

Elsewhere in Aranya, the studio recently completed the 1402 Coffee Shop, which consists of a rectangular volume inserted into an existing brick building.

The photography is by Eiichi Kano.

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