step into knof’s ‘PENITENT’ ambient cafe


enter the ‘penitent’ cafe by knof

Hidden on the second floor of a multi-tenant building in Sumido, Japan, ‘PENITENT’ is an intimate and ambient place coffee designed by local practice knof. Working with the client, the design team delved into ‘tit makes sense to create a cafe even in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, where people call to “stay at home”. Based on the concept of “getting together for a short time and spending the day alone”, we sought to create a place where people can experience the joy of sharing time and space with strangers while respecting their way to pass their time,’ explains knof.

Based on this concept of “sharing” and “disjunction”, the resulting spatial arrangement is as follows: several seats with different characters, a large multifunctional table with centripetal force, a moving art screen that changes patterns and colors depending on the weather. and time of day, and a subtle material scheme that complements the dim lighting scheme.

Setting the scene, knof writes:On one side of the large table, the owner is making coffee. During this time, you hear the sound of a record playing nearby. When you look up from the book you are reading, you see other customers talking in low voices and the hot coffee being brought to you.

all images © Haruki Kodama

Delving into knof’s first ‘PENITENT’ café highlight, the large table facing the art display spans 3.8 x 3.4m and reveals a beautifully textured wooden surface supported by legs in discreet and round steel. “The table is so big that you don’t have to worry about what the person sitting next to you or in front of you is doing”, note it designers. Additionally, by setting the table where the owner prepares the coffee and prepares the food, the team creates an extension for various activities to take place, inviting guests and the owner to share an experience while respecting each other’s space.

a movable and pleated work of art fills this Japanese cafe with a warm atmosphere

The coffee’s second star sits next to the table like a moving, colorful iconographic work of art. Imagined by Mayumi Ozawa and Masahiko Setoyama, the installation takes the form of a luminous curtain wall that changes appearance throughout the day. Once the design was set, knof continued to build the artwork by laying out 11 corrugated FRP panels in three layers and attaching transparent/non-transparent die-cut sheets to them. Each panel is suspended by a rail and can be moved left or right depending on the weather, time of day or need for ventilation. As you move, the iconography changes accordingly.

Due to its wavy texture, the image gives a completely different impression when viewed from different angles. There are also two types of fold sizes, large and small, to complicate iconography changes.

‘The basic FRP corrugated sheet is not completely transparent and has the unique charm of a material that fades into rainbow colors when light passes through it. The bright colors of the cutting sheets are added to it, and the sunlight and the lighting shine and dye the interior of the store in different colors. Because it faces the south window, the space changes dramatically depending on the weather and time, such as when the sun is beating down, when it is setting, or when it is cloudy. We also look forward to the change with which the FRP will turn yellow and familiar with a few years,” says the studio.

a movable and pleated work of art fills this Japanese cafe with a warm atmosphere

view of the large table and the movable and colorful works of art

a movable and pleated work of art fills this Japanese cafe with a warm atmosphere

two different pleast sizes add a dynamic touch to the artwork

a movable and pleated work of art fills this Japanese cafe with a warm atmosphere

subtle material scheme and dimly lit design


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