Launch Slideshow

1. The custom counters were designed by Zago Architecture and fabricated locally. The laser-cut steel was powder-coated silver to give it a shine that reflects the surrounding colors, without resorting to a more expensive material that would have taken the project over budget. They also designed the butterfly display case on the back wall to ply the cafés wares.

Mercury Coffee Bar, Detroit

Zago Architecture brings life to a corner of downtown Detroit with a whimsical café that takes design cues from cartoons and a Depression-era train.

Mercury Coffee Bar, Detroit

Zago Architecture brings life to a corner of downtown Detroit with a whimsical café that takes design cues from cartoons and a Depression-era train.

  • 1. The custom counters were designed by Zago Architecture and fabricated locally. The laser-cut steel was powder-coated silver to give it a shine that reflects the surrounding colors, without resorting to a more expensive material that would have taken the project over budget. They also designed the butterfly display case on the back wall to ply the cafés wares.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpEE3A%2Etmp_tcm20-182412.jpg

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    1. The custom counters were designed by Zago Architecture and fabricated locally. The laser-cut steel was powder-coated silver to give it a shine that reflects the surrounding colors, without resorting to a more expensive material that would have taken the project over budget. They also designed the butterfly display case on the back wall to ply the cafés wares.

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    Corine Vermeulen-Smith

    The custom counters were designed by Zago Architecture and fabricated locally. The laser-cut steel was powder-coated silver to give it a shine that reflects the surrounding colors, without resorting to a more expensive material that would have taken the project over budget. They also designed the butterfly display case on the back wall to ply the café’s wares.

  • 2. The steel counters were formed from one sheet of laser-cut metal (seen unfolded in this diagram). The sheets were then taken to a shop that bent and welded them into their final form.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpEE3B%2Etmp_tcm20-182419.jpg

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    2. The steel counters were formed from one sheet of laser-cut metal (seen unfolded in this diagram). The sheets were then taken to a shop that bent and welded them into their final form.

    600

    Corine Vermeulen-Smith

    The staircase leading down to the basement level is also made from laser-cut steel, this time coated white. The angular construction of the risers mimics the geometry of the counters and the color fields in the ground floor space--which were achieved using an epoxy coating from Kwasny Flooring and Lining Systems--while the more sedate palette of black and white transitions into the less visually energetic brick space below.

  • 3. The staircase leading down to the basement level is also made from laser-cut steel, this time coated white. The angular construction of the risers mimics the geometry of the counters and color fields in the ground floor spacewhich were achieved using an epoxy coating from Kwasny Flooring and Lining Systemswhile the more sedate palette of black and white transitions into the less visually energetic brick space below.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpEE3C%2Etmp_tcm20-182426.jpg

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    3. The staircase leading down to the basement level is also made from laser-cut steel, this time coated white. The angular construction of the risers mimics the geometry of the counters and color fields in the ground floor spacewhich were achieved using an epoxy coating from Kwasny Flooring and Lining Systemswhile the more sedate palette of black and white transitions into the less visually energetic brick space below.

    600

    Corine Vermeulen-Smith

    If Edward Hopper had painted Nighthawks in 2009, it might have looked a little something like Zago Architecture's new Mercury Coffee Bar, a renovation project that brings vibrancy--both literally and figuratively--back to this corner of Detroit.

  • M:\ZA - MERCURY COFFEE BAR\071408\counters071408.dwg 5.1 (1)

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    Counter detail. The steel counters were formed from one sheet of laser-cut metal (seen unfolded in this diagram). The sheets were then taken to a shop that bent and welded them into their final form.

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    Basement and Floor Plans

On Detroit’s Michigan Avenue, next to Warren & Wetmore’s now-decrepit Beaux-Arts Michigan Central Depot, is the Mercury Coffee Bar, a local hot spot that is a sign of the hopefulness of a younger generation of Detroiters intent on repopulating the city. It is a whimsical space that at once evokes a fun house and an Art Deco train car. In fact, Zago Architecture’s design cue for the café comes from the very trains that once rolled in from Cleveland to the depot. Principal Andrew Zago’s team channeled Henry Dreyfus’ iconic 1936 Mercury train in particular, whose streamlined profile was the steel incarnation of speed. To that end, Zago uses metallic, angular surfaces throughout in a nod to the machine age.

Another major component of the space is color. Pink and blue racing stripes across the ceiling shift into bright CMYK colors on the walls, a palette and application that collectively suggest the printing of a misregistered cartoon. For Zago, this whimsy stylistically liberates the space: “It creates a freedom to introduce various pieces.”

The ground floor of the bar has an open plan, with a custom central steel counter that serves as the focal point. Zago designed the folded patterns with a fairly straightforward combination of FormZ and AutoCAD. Those files were used by the laser cutting shop, and then a small local manufacturer bent and welded the steel. Lacquered wood inserts and counters were added on site.

White stairs descend to the basement level, opening up another seating area. The stairs and their grid-like enclosure are made of laser-cut steel that was slotted together like the partitions in a case of wine. The basement’s brick walls create a more subdued atmosphere than the technicolor wonder of the ground floor and are lit by a narrow clerestory where the storefront dips below grade.

Cartoonish glee and Art Deco trains may seem discordant, but with whimsy and great lattés, Mercury Coffee Bar is bringing life back to the neighborhood.