Albert, Eid & the Lights in the Attic Cafe | The Unparalleled Series
Hawthorne East, Victoria, Australia

Ashley Gladwish

Dave Kulesza

“We aim to create the most comfortable spaces for living and playing.”

For Albert Mo and Eid Goh, the founding minds behind the architecture and interior design practice, Architects EAT, the field of architecture is capable of revolutionising the technology that we use to build today’s structural forces, to reconsider the best ways of living and what designing for humanity really means. With current projects spanning workplaces, hotel, art gallery and public buildings among others, Albert and Eid’s latest spatial planning project, Lights in the Attic cafe, connects function with context in adapting the original building infrastructure and tactile quality to the requirements of the design brief. We visit with Albert and Eid in their newly finished hospitality space to speak with them about the biggest challenges they had to overcome in designing the project and how they see the field of architecture fast tracking it’s way into the future.

Located in Melbourne’s Hawthorne East, Lights in the Attic was created for cafe dwellers that find wonder in small social gatherings and solitude in hidden away nooks. Creating a perception of space was the biggest challenge for Eid, who was leading the project. The original corner site consisted of low ceilings and an inefficient internal layout making a height extenuation necessary to establish visibility, the core of the brief’s foundation. Aligned with their own values, Albert and Eid wanted to ensure that the design allowed for sufficient air and light circulation, an aspect that would parallel the spaces’ functionally zoned layout and amplified volume. Adhering to both visibility and functionality, Eid wanted to showcase the detailed imperfections from the original construct and believed that the detailing provided a unique element to represent the cafe’s original form.

In contrast to the original site, light now permeates passively throughout the cafe’s internal territory. Eid connected three columns to the interior zones to establish a gallery feel, allowing as much natural light in as possible, elongating the length between the floor and ceiling. By working with suppliers, fabricators and designers to undergo the lighting design process, Eid were able to conduct a series of light diffusion tests. They discovered that by applying acrylic plates between the LED lights they could create a gentle luminescence of varying degrees and distances, allowing for the space to have a balance of both artificial and natural light. The diffusion of light also assisted in overcoming the repositioning of the cafe entrance, a significant challenge due to their local and long time following.

By Incorporating both raw and finished materials Eid created an illusion of height above the coffee bar, blurring the lines between retail and hospitality. The exposed concrete slab surrounded by curved edging mimics the security of a shell formation, protecting the historical elements of the original site. Throughout the interior the polished ceilings soften the prevalence of the stainless steel elements while contributing to the tranquility of the brushed and mirroring finishes. With limited space, Eid chose functional seating and moveable table tops that could be divided by thick rich blue denim curtains to create a sense of privacy. Their aim to create the most comfortable spaces for living and playing continues to be met with wholehearted precision and spontaneity in their designs, an aspect that is often overwhelming and limited when working with run-down buildings.

When I ask Albert about the potential of architecture and what we are gravitating towards as a society he tells me that barriers need to be broken when it comes to building technology. His admiration for the automotive industry is not surprising as it illustrates an attraction to how people like Henry Ford and Elon Musk have revolutionised and made better a historically traditional industry by focusing on technology. “I will never understand why car and tram doors are so water tight while we still have buildings that leak. We need to think about architecture and the spaces we live in. We don’t need houses that look like our neighbours but we do need well built structures that can withstand heat and erosion.”

Designing for humanity, Eid tells me, is not a disillusioned thought separate from the automotive analogy, that as a society we need to re-evaluate what building for humanity means. “Architecture connects people with other people, and people with their surroundings. It exists to enrich the way people live and I think we have forgotten that good design is intended to better people in their day to day lives”. Concrete, Albert tells me, can be used for addressing different concerns if we bring engineering, craftsmanship and technology together. “To create a substance that works for people is an investment. It requires people to think about things collectively, and if we can reconceptualise this now then we will be able to design and build to a much greater standard”.

Thank you Albert and Eid for sharing your thoughts and insights on your recently completed work and what you believe we can do in revolutionising the field of design.