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Dov Cafe
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Dov Cafe

Location:
Sydney
Type:
Café
Year:
1998
Architect:
Leigh Prentice
Consultant:
Angus Leendertz
Dov is a plain Jane of a café. But like the girl next door its simplicity and familiar grace begin to grow on you. It asserts a scrubbed face into the coterie of grimy bohemian hangouts for which Darlinghurst is famous.

Designed and executed with a hand of restraint, the governing aesthetic is one of absence. The briif was to keep it brief - no patterned upholstery, no bright coloured tiles, no ornamental lighting and no decoration. Instead, large square windows on either side of the front door fill the space with light. Light splashes against the white tiled central service area, glows upon the raw sandstone walls and softly accents a floor laid in minty green cement.

Spare lines and clean surfaces defy the excesses of your average cafe - the cluttered dens of burnt milk, curling posters, yellowed ceilings and trashy clutter.

The previous establishments that inhabited this space kept the concept of a casual eatery flrmly in the realm of glorffied lounge room. When architect Leigh Prentice asked Angus Leendertz of Interni to collaborate on the creation of Dov, two claustrophobic terrace-style rooms were knocked into one open space. By ripping out the wooden booths that lined the walls, eliminating a central brick wall and levelling the floor, the resulting space broke away from the cosy "nest" effect of cafes past.

Working very closely to the rigorous brief of the client, the space was to be stripped back but not built up. The openedout area placed its own demands upon the design. Once the raw sandstone walls were exposed, any _form of design frippery became impossible. The roughly hewn surface of the pale pink and yellow stone refuses tricky lighting or framed pictures. Relating to the immediate environment, the stone walls create a cool retreat from afternoon sun, echoing the large convict-cut slabs at the art school across the road.

The furniture in Dov follows the principle of minimal classicism. Of all the Thonet chairs, the Melnikov is perhaps the most spartan, bearing none of the cliched cafe associations of the traditional bentwood. In pale blond wood, these chairs float upon a granolithic cement floor tinted with chromium oxide pigment, an industrial material commonly used in fire stairs. The colour is subdued. The rest of the space is monochrome. Contrasting to the textural surfaces of the sandstone walls, the service area is covered with standard plain white tiles. Lighting is not elaborate nor halogen but the traditional Munkergaare, a light chosen for its "soft lovely glow"

Working on the principle of eradication as invention, Prentice and Leendertz explain their design simply. "It's not that we're really anti-design. We just weren't trying to recreate any romantic notions of what a cafe should be." Ironically the result bears all the best qualities of a classic cafe - a space that accommodates gossip, conversation or solitude. The spareness of ornament and natural surfaces are righteous in the face of 80s excess, the light filled room providing a 90s style altar to ecologically sound anti-obsolescence. In case all this severity, cleanliness and godliness becomes too much, there is a TV discreetly tucked in the corner above the bar and some wicked cakes to maintain a touch of worldly indulgence.

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