In fact the first time I spoke to Chao was when I landed in his hometown of Fuzhou and he collected me from the airport with his wife Jenny and their adorable son. In fact we did attempt for me to design the space from Melbourne, but I just couldn't do it without being there. The space was so unique, it was the orginal YMCA building built in 1952. So I flew to China for 2 days to conduct a site visit and lock in floor plans, in that timewe did that and more, I visited tile factories, light manufacturers and ATE. The amazing hospitality of Chao and his wife Jenny meant that we dined for hours every day, taking at least a 2 hour break each meal to try the local cuisine.
There were so mant firsts, it is the first specialty roaster in all of China, the first time I had worked overseas, my first visit to China and the first time I had worked without an architect. I am so pleased to say that it all went so smoothly, Chao and Jenny trusted me and gave me free reign to create something truly unique for the Chinese market. It was a real investment for this young couple to invest in a Western designer and I am so grateful that they did.
It seems the youth of Fuzhou have fully embraced the concept and already are flocking in large numbers to congregate and drink quality coffee. I don' t have any of my own photos to share with you as I've not been there since my visit before construction begun (crazy insane) so here are a few that Chao has sent through to me.
BTW Here is the site before - untouched for decades. I stripped back the render to reveal the beautiful old bricks and opened up the whole space, including removing the second story to create a floating cupping lab. God bless the local engineers who NEVER questioned my vision - they just made it happen.