buffalo cafe kachelofen close

It’s highly unusual for a building in a place like Buffalo to go without the need for mechanical heating and cooling of any kind. This café space is still cozy as can be, though, as it relies on masonry heat, which utilizes the energy from just six logs a day to heat the small space. Can you imagine the freedom of running a beautiful café in this space without worrying about how you’ll pay for the heat during the long winter?

Architects Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, who are also faculty members faculty members in the UB Department of Architecture, designed the renovation using a heating system called a kachelofen. It works by burning wood in a super-heated firebox, much like a wood-fired pizza oven. The hot smoke travels horizontally, instead of upwards, into a rectangular flue before rising up through a chimney.

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That horizontal flue is the genius part of the heating equation. It stores and radiates heat through a 15-foot-long box that envelops a looped passageway twice that length.

buffalo cafe interior

Rafailidis, a UB assistant professor of architecture, explains how this café actively engages customers in their relationship to the heating and cooling system, which is not a common experience. “When you come into this café, you suddenly experience something you never think about—you’re intimately engaged with the heating and cooling systems,” he said. “These mechanisms are usually hidden, but in our design, we bring it out.”

The café project is the result of renovations on a century-old storefront, commissioned by the building’s owner, in a determined push to attract upper end tenants. Currently, there is no business operating in the beautiful space, but that will change soon after the building owner decides on a suitable occupant.

+ University at Buffalo

Images via Florian Holzherr