Cooper's @ IFC 5: Creating a sense of place through design
Since we opened our IFC café in 2019 I have given many tours to friends interested in understanding the different elements that form the fabric of the café.
The design was created by Oscar Warr an alumni of the Royal College of Art in London. He was born in Jersey and is very interested in its heritage. The resultant café not only tells the story of Cooper’s, a business that first appeared in Jersey in 1890 but also endeavours to give the café a sense of place. As Oscar says “there’s so much more to Jersey than Granite, Cows and Potatoes”
And so in this series of mini blogs I’ll explain the different design elements found within the café starting with the concrete fascia of the counter.
Like it or not concrete is part of the material fabric of Jersey. Upon invading the Island in 1940 the German army using forced labour to build the defensive network of bunkers, anti-tank walls and observation structures we see today. Approximately 484,000 cubic metres of concrete was used in the Channel Islands, quite extraordinary for such a small archipelago.
Unlike many earlier invading forces no remnants of German culture remain. What we are left with are the ghosts of that invasion, megaliths to history. The proof that the bunkers have been assimilated into our culture is demonstrated by how many have been repurposed. The Gunsite café at Beaumont is the most public example. Coffee and cakes have replaced guns and the jack boot.
So I return to the building of our own concrete counter, built by artisan Hilton Hugo in St. Mary. He poured concrete into wooden shuttering which was then removed once the concrete had dried. The result is almost sculptural in nature. The grain of the wood has marked the concrete in such a way as to make one question as to whether the structure is actually made of concrete. The outline of the planks evidence of the human hand.
As a material concrete used in this way can appear cold and unwelcoming. The term Brutalist architecture coined in the 1950’s sums up many people’s views around buildings where concrete is the main design feature. It’s only in recent years that these buildings have started to be recognised for their innovative design and have achieved protected status.
In the next blog I’ll talk about the “green wall” that juxtaposes the concrete counter. This combination of man-made material set alongside nature was partly inspired by the Barbican centre in London and is a heady mix.