Design

THE CHICAGO ROASTERY

The world’s largest Starbucks is a bold statement for the global coffee brand, but also serves as a showcase for dynamic contemporary design. The new Roastery space – which opened in Chicago in November 2019 – is driven by a narrative of local architectural history. Chicago is a focal point for American modernism – the buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bertrand Goldberg and Harry Weese are as much of an attraction as ‘American Gothic’ is at the local Art Institute. While their skyscrapers are evergreen landmarks, the Crate & Barrel store – that existed from 1990 until it was replaced by the new Roastery – was something that ingrained itself in the visual culture of modern Chicago. It was a moment of bold, appealing severity in an unbroken line of classicism on North Michigan Avenue with a glass enclosed corner cylinder puncturing the outer walls of the building. The American Institute of Architects’ Guide to Chicago called it “shamelessly transparent,” and likened its design to a man attending a black-tie event in a white suit.

The new Roastery, set across 35,000 square feet and five floors, occupies the old Crate & Barrel store, but instead of restructuring it, repurposes the original designs by architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz. If anything, it elevates that original design, and its bold, irreverent gestures.

Following on from their collaborative Roastery projects in Seattle and New York, BassamFellows worked with the Chief Design Officer of Starbucks, Liz Muller, and her close knit team on furniture for the Chicago interior. The earlier projects led to the creation of ten designs, including four tables, two lounge chairs and four stools. The starting point for the designs was a pleasingly shaped pebble that architect Craig Bassam picked up while walking on the beach on Cape Cod. The object had been sitting on his desk for some time, and when the Roastery project came up, he took inspiration from it, believing that furniture designed with organic curves would function well in a space with constant activity where seating areas ebb and flow without the need for architectural rigor. For the new space in Chicago, the BassamFellows designs were produced in raw effect oak, to pair with the building’s white steel, pale colors and vast glass panels.

The new space accentuates the original architecture by making a point of its retail production elements – a giant coffee bean cask looks like a rocket about to launch, while ceiling pipes carry roasted beans to silos at counters. A spiral escalator takes visitors around that aforementioned “rocket”. This is experiential retail architecture at its most innovative.

The design detail in the new Roastery project in Chicago is notable. Branding is minimal. One of the most interesting features: Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega’s five-level mural of coffee trees and farming on the south end stairwell.

The BassamFellows designs at the Roastery in Chicago make up an original collection of highly functional furniture. The Pebble Stool looks like one of the simplest pieces in the set, but was one of the most complex to develop. It comes in a plain wood and an upholstered version, Pebble Padded. Numerous prototypes were worked on, with incremental changes to the sculptural shape to create optimum comfort, while Pebble Padded went through numerous changes in the upholstery detailing with as few seams as possible. Rounding out the series is the Pebble Lounge Chair, an ample, fully carved all wood lounge chair.

The Trigon and Quad Tables utilize triangular shapes to provide a directional edge for lounge seating while allowing better clustering. Softened edges create a “guitar pick” shape in keeping with the more abstract, sculptural nature of the rest of the collection.

The Slink Lounge Chair required multiple prototypes and work with specialist technicians to create a thin, elegant padded shell. The result is something that is pared back, visually light, extremely durable and strong, and incredibly comfortable.

These are all designs that will ultimately become part of the BassamFellows canon and follow in the heritage of numerous architects creating bespoke furniture with longevity, with their origins in commercial hospitality.


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Slink Lounge Chairs and Trigon Tables allow guests to experience the art, science and theater of coffee.

Pebble Padded Stools line the cocktail bar

A giant coffee bean cask looks like a rocket about to launch. This is experiential retail architecture at its most innovative.

Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega’s five-level mural of coffee trees and farming on the south end stairwell.

The entire 35,000 square feet space is comprised of multiple lounge seating areas and multiple bar/counter areas with no café seating – more like a lux living room.

The BassamFellows designs were produced in raw effect oak, to pair with the building’s white steel, pale colors and vast glass panels.

The cocktail bar features innovative craft cocktails inspired by coffee.

The former Crate & Barrel building is a moment of bold, appealing severity in an unbroken line of classicism on North Michigan Avenue with a glass enclosed corner cylinder puncturing the outer walls.

The Pebble Lounge Chair, an ample, fully carved all wood lounge chair.

MARCO FAVALI

The furniture was designed with organic curves to function well in a space with constant activity.

MARCO FAVALI

The starting point for the designs was a pleasingly shaped pebble that architect Craig Bassam picked up while walking on the beach on Cape Cod.

MARCO FAVALI

Organic curves and minimal seaming.

MARCO FAVALI

Quad Coffee Tables utilize triangular shapes to provide a directional edge for lounge seating.

MARCO FAVALI

The custom designed pieces follow in the heritage of numerous architects creating bespoke furniture with longevity, with their origins in commercial hospitality.

MARCO FAVALI

Trigon Table in different heights allow better clustering.

MARCO FAVALI

Softened edges create a “guitar pick” shape in keeping with the more abstract, sculptural nature of the rest of the collection.

MARCO FAVALI

Trigon Tables in brass coated steel.

LEAD IMAGE

The world’s largest Starbucks is a bold statement for the global coffee brand, but also serves as a showcase for dynamic contemporary design.

MARCO FAVALI