Japanese architecture firm Schemata Architects has unveiled Blue Bottle Coffee’s first outpost in Kyoto – and it’s housed in a century-old building. Following the aesthetic of the previous Schemata-designed Blue Bottle cafes in Tokyo, the newest location features a minimalist and modern design that takes inspiration from the surrounding urban fabric. The two-story structure was carefully overhauled to allow for new functionality while preserving and exposing historic elements.

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exterior of renovated machiya

cafe interior at Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Cafe

Completed in March this year, the Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Cafe is located near the base of Kyoto’s forested Higashiyama mountains and along the approach to Nanzen-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the historic city’s top tourist attractions. The cafe was built inside a traditional Japanese townhouse (known as ‘machiya’) consisting of two separate buildings. Schemata Architects renovated the buildings into a ‘Merchandise building’ and a ‘Cafe building’ with a total floor area of nearly 3,500 square feet.

pebbled courtyard with seating

second floor offices

As was typical of traditional Japanese architecture at the turn of the 20th century, the original floors of the machiya were raised nearly 20 inches off the ground. To create a seamless appearance and to accommodate patrons with special mobility needs, the Blue Bottle Cafe’s architects demolished the raised wooden floors and made them level with the ground. The new floors feature terrazzo containing the same type of pebbles used outside. The same terrazzo material was also used in the counters and benches.

view from coffee bar

interior terrazzo counters

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“The floor inside the counter is also level with the customer area to maintain the same eye level between customers and staff following the same concept as the other shops, while integrating Japanese and American cultures at the same time,” said the architects. “The continuous white floor is stripped of all unnecessary things and the structure is stripped of existing finishes to expose the original roof structure and clay walls, and one can see traces of its 100-year old history throughout the large, medium and small spaces in the structure originally composed of two separate buildings.” The second floor has been converted into an open-plan office with glass frontage.

+ Schemata Architects

Images by Takumi Ota