2015 Melbourne Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design
design champion, best studio, best start-up & best supplier
plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage
growing demand for design

Photo Credit : Tatjana Plitt




Project Overview

The café is located at the corner of St Kilda Road and Wellington Street, St Kilda. The main concepts of the Icon Coffee design are atmosphere, materiality and light. The café was envisioned as a place of escape for busy people inspired by the vibrant St Kilda area and Scandinavian atmosphere. We collaborated closely with our client to create a meeting venue for the residents in the Icon tower and people in the surrounding neighbourhood with panoramic views to the streets and theatrical experience.

Project Commissioner

Jared Lawler

Project Creator

Pham Tuan Viet Architects Pty Ltd


The design team: Viet Pham, Nga Hoang
Lighting: A T Lighting
Builder: Retro Commercial Fitouts

Project Brief

The brief was to design a café for an area of 58 square meters. The Icon Coffee was envisioned as a place of escape for busy people inspired by the vibrant St Kilda area and Scandinavian atmosphere. The café is a place for people to slow down, breath in and have a break during a busy day. With a small budget, we aimed at achieving more with less. The design aesthetic is minimal with economical use of material palette. The design process started with a close observation of the existing structure, envelope and surrounding urban context. We also discussed in depth with our client regarding the making process of coffee with careful consideration of placement of coffee machine, grinders and the sequences of the process.

Project Innovation/Need

The existing double frontage and existing glass curtain wall creates interesting panoramic views to the streets and invite people into the café. It is contrast with the more solid and colourful metal cladding of the apartments above. We kept the beautiful and raw concrete texture of the existing round concrete column to remind people of its connection to the building above. The material palette is minimal with American Oak veneer cabinets, bench top and bench seats with Ghost Gum stained finish. We paid careful attention to detailing and how stone, wood and glass are put together. We explored the juxtapositions of solid and void, mass and transparency. The design took advantage of the northern aspect of the site and minimised the amount of artificial lightings use. The space is filled with natural light. Hidden warm light under bench top and cabinet creates a sense of floating and make the space lighter. Hand-made porcelain pendant lights bring love, care and cosiness to the space.

Design Challenge

The project had a tight time frame and a small budget. By observing the existing conditions carefully and creatively, we turned the found elements into parts of the design. Instead of having a plasterboard ceiling as usual, we exposed the services such as sprinklers and patterns of the existing ceiling. The café has a small footprint so our design strategy was to use neutral and light colours for ceiling, walls and floor to make the space more spacious. We also minimised the number of tables to keep the space more open and to encouraged the customers to seat on the long benches to start a conversation. The activities inside the café including the coffee making process and the dynamic of customers' activities are theatrical and contribute into the vibrancy of the streetscape. The design creates a strong inside and outside relationship. Outdoor seats also extend the café's activities to the streets and activates its edges.


The design contributes significantly in terms of social, environmental and economical sustainability. Socially, the cafe provides an important meeting venue for the residents in the tower and surrounding neighbourhood. The cafe brings more vibrancy to the streetscape with the process of making coffee on display to pedestrians. Furthermore, the design team is highly conscious of the impacts of the design and café operation to the environment. The café has a minimal aesthetic and small in footprint. It used less materials and took advantage of the found conditions of the site and used them creatively in the design. The existing concrete slab with its thermal mass absorbs heat from sun light during day time and release the heat at night to warm the space. The plumbing fixtures were carefully selected with an efficient use of water. We also choose Australian handmade lighting fixtures with low glare louvre, energy efficient and low mercury with long life fluorescent tubes. The café uses recyclable coffee cups and reduces the coffee waste during the process of coffee making. Economically, the café will create more jobs for the neighbourhood especially young people and provides the necessary infrastructure for community gathering and food consumption.

This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes, aesthetic presentation and functionality. Consideration also given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.  

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