This bakery is designed to withstand Bogotá’s perennially chilly spring

Bogotá – Who would have thought being eternally suspended in a state of fair temperatures could be something of a design torment? As Bogotá is located some 2,600 metres above sea level atop an Andean plateau, the average temperature year round is 14 Celsius degrees. But ‘average’ is a misnomer; the correct term would be ‘unpredictable’: over the course of one day it can be sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon and five degrees at night. ‘That means the weather is both a blessing and a curse: it is fairly mild with a feeling of perennial spring or autumn, but it can also be cold, chilly or wet,’ explained Colombian-born, Brooklyn-based architect Benjamín Cadena.

The nature of the business required the space to provide customers with the feeling of eating al fresco even under bad weather

That detailed first-hand knowledge of the city’s climate came in handy for one of Studio Cadena’s latest commissions, the Masa bakery in the Usaquén neighbourhood. As the nature of the business required the space to provide customers with the feeling of eating al fresco even under bad weather, the architect had to devise an indoors-outdoors relationship that made meteorological sense.

To solve this, Cadena went for an environment of strategically restrained openness. The 700 sq-m space is organized as a group of distinct volumes, modulated by standout elements such as a long concrete bar, a cylindrical wood-clad service station and a multi-tiered seating platform. That means that everything remains connected, with the freedom of moving into a somewhat open plan, yet atomized for intimacy.

This fragmentation, then, is also present in the outside treatment. The main dining area is connected to an open patio via large sliding doors – one of the large circular windows in the kitchen even provides an alternative view of the vegetation. The triangular cutout windows and the entry open the façade to the street, mingling with the sidewalk. Masa is, essentially, one large room that looks both inside and outside. ‘We wanted to make sure you could always feel the presence of what’s being made here, and that the space was inviting to the city,’ Cadena explained.

Coffee is still central to Colombian culture and identity, and like many places around the world, it has also experienced a great evolution in consumer tastes

What’s being made there, by the way, is all manner of kneaded doughs, from country-sour to cinnamon bread, from challahs to English muffins – masa means dough in Spanish. But the co-star of the bakery is one of Colombian’s best-known exports: its high-quality coffee. The beverage also played a big part in the layout: there is a whole segment in the front volume, around a circular bar, dedicated to coffee preparation. As Cadena has a past life as a professional coffee taster for exporters, he was able to witness and even foresee the varied methods of preparation that have increasingly gained popularity in the country, beyond the popular tinto style most locals are familiar with. ‘Coffee is still central to Colombian culture and identity, and like many places around the world, it has also experienced a great evolution and increased sophistication in consumer tastes,’ he explained.

But consumer tastes in Bogotá are also evolving in terms of design demands. With eight million inhabitants, traffic congestion and the lack of comprehensive public transportation options have turned the sprawling capital into a splintered city, with dwellers preferring to stay as close to home as possible in their social outings.

This situation has densified and intensified hospitality offers in formerly residential areas – such as Usaquén itself – and, combined with the cultural awareness brought along by Instagram, made the scene more and more competitive. ‘This is translating into a desire to shape spaces where design plays a central role in creating an experience and brand identity,’ Cadena stated. ‘In Bogotá, forward-thinking clients understand that they no longer exist in isolation to what may be happening in New York, Mexico City or London, and their ambitions to engage design as part of their DNA is raising the bar for others in the city.’

Location Cl. 105 #18A-68, Bogotá

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