Considerate Composition

Westbrook’s Roots Cafe is designed for work and play

“We work in a lot of ways. My favorite word to describe our design process is ‘iteration,’ because we look at these challenges from many angles. Architecture is a visual art, and we must see it to evaluate it. We use drawings and physical models to work through the space and what the form is going to be like; we then use these plans and models as tangible objects in front of us that the clients can comment on. We make a lot of decisions based on the clients’ feedback, and we then reconfigure and put it back in front of them with a new dialogue. “The clients wanted an industrial, barn-like gabled structure with large openings that would be an inviting social space in Westbrook, and they were looking for a cafe—in evolving terms. It kind of changed throughout the process. They were looking for one half to be a cafe, one half to be a kind of community meeting area, and to have childcare for people in the building, too. So it really became these two parts. We took the gable shape of a barn, extruded it along the property, and adjusted it accordingly to make room for what would go on inside. It was difficult to know what to do with the lot because it was originally part of a railroad, and consequently is very long and thin.

“The first and most important step was to develop clear and efficient circulation among all spaces: figuring out how to move cars across and onto the site, allow enough parking, and provide space-efficient and logical transitions between the interior spaces. This was difficult because there are two sides of the building that are distinct, yet there is constant and regular movement between each half by customers and staff. This type of business was new territory for the clients, so we were ultimately redefining the objectives for each space as we went through the process. “There are a lot of windows in the cafe in particular. The opening sizes and placements define and announce what’s going on inside so that people know this is a public space. The natural wood and dark gray painted clapboards and exterior trim lend a visual strength and sturdiness to the building that is reinforced in the interior. In the end, the elements were all carefully selected and composed to provide a sincere and welcoming place— it’s a compositionally driven building.” —Chris Delano, Delano Architecture 

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