top of page

Espresso Alchemy, Harbour City


Completion: 2020

Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Boutique Cafe; Full-Scope Design

Award Winning:

Silver (DrivenxDesign HK21)

The objective of the Espresso Alchemy café design in Hong Kong's Harbour City mall was to visually connect two disjointed but adjacent spaces. Metagram inserted vividly coloured architectural forms in order to create this iconic design.

The site located in Tsim Sha Tsui, a key tourist district of Hong Kong, was one without clear boundaries and was surrounded by much visual clutter, making it difficult to control the design experience.

Comprised of two sections, the primary tenancy was narrow, oddly shaped, and visually open to a vast, mostly inactive common mall area providing good visibility but little privacy.


Adjacent to the tenancy, within the open mall space was the secondary area. This area was drenched in cool, 4500K lighting and was very exposed, particularly to an underpass traffic route – these latent conditions were unsuitable for an F&B establishment. The secondary space posed the most significant challenge, in that it would contain most of the café seating and the existing finishes could not be changed.

Metagram’s design set out to solve two key issues. It would unify the two spaces although detached and surrounded by visual noise, and it would create enclosure and refuge in order to provide suitable atmosphere for a successful café.

At the core of the design, Metagram used the architectural element of the ‘arch’ (in a deep red painted timber veneer) to highlight the brand’s colour, contrast with site surroundings, and simultaneously to synchronise the design to the rhythm set by the existing façade glazing.

The arches in the secondary space, linked by tightly stretched red elastic formed a subtle series of barrel arches. This ‘stoa’ like volume would be visually striking, standing out against its surroundings and providing the much-needed refuge for café patrons. The floor finish - a contemporary terrazzo printed LVT, and the furniture, a combination of veneer, terrazzo and rich green marble.

In the corner of the secondary external area was a large column which Metagram clad with a plywood structure finished in Venetian plaster. A two-seater built-in banquette formed the backdrop feature of the space. Rosco film was added to the existing 4500K lights to modify the mood to a more comfortable 3000K.

Within the primary tenancy space, a central, edge lit barrel vault provided its main feature. It defined an axis, providing order to the irregular space, and referenced the string barrel vaults used externally. The vault added an uplifting atmosphere to the space and a single communal table, created an elevated dining experience. In order to add privacy, Metagram added a layer of red textured glass fins to the shopfront. It would be relatively transparent in elevation, but bold red and translucent at a sheer.


Making use of the freedom to define the surfaces, the floors used rich black terrazzo, the bar bench - acid washed black granite, and the walls were richly articulated in taupe mosaics. Finally, at the end of the space, a red arch could also be found, marrying the design of the external and internal spaces.

bottom of page