Blue Bottle Coffee




Central, Hong Kong


Schemata Architects




Quantity 190m2


Q&A with Jo Nagasaka

1. Please tell us a bit about this architectural project and the design concepts used in the space.

Blue Bottle Coffee does not use the same shop-layout for each branch, but rather uses different designs for each location, in each city. Each branch has its own look that reflects the character of its surrounding area. This reflection of place is one of the distinctive qualities of Blue Bottle Coffee, with each shop in each location having a different design composed of different materials. In keeping with that concept, we decided to use tiles that are similar to the ones that can be found throughout the streets of Hong Kong, as a suitable material for the first ever Blue Bottle Coffee in the city.

2.  In which part of the space did you use tiles, and why?

The tiles were used on the main counter, the benches and the floors. This way, the tiles would not just be seen, but “felt” as the customers organically interact with them. 

3. Can you explain your thoughts and ideas that led to this particular tile design?

The tiles seen throughout Hong Kong are made using a manufacturing process called “dry press” and consequently have a very uniform texture. Therefore, we decided instead to use a traditional “wet”* process for the tiles for this project. During this process, due to uneven shrinking during the firing, the tiles do not attain a uniform finish. Using tiles that each individually have a slightly different shape and feel, I think we were able to create a cafe that is somewhat typical for Hong Kong, yet hadn’t existed before.

4. Please tell us about the design concept for the tiles you used.

The tiles we used have a grey base, speckled with white glaze. When placed in the pre-existing concrete environment, the white spots on the tiles create an array of greys, making the tiles appear as if the grey of the concrete around had been cut out into a mosaic. By blending the tiles in with the pre-existing materials, we were able to create a harmonious space.

5. Why did you choose a custom made tile for this interior?

By using a “wet” production method to create the grey tile base, and then dripping white glaze onto each tile, subtle variations were produced among the tiles. As a result, it was possible to achieve a variety of appearances, even just within the color grey. This aesthetic, that harmonises in such an interesting way with the mottled grey of the surrounding concrete, was only made possible by creating a custom made tile.

6. What are your thoughts regarding tiles in comparison with other materials?

I may have had a preconceived notion that all tiles were ready-made, so I had not used them much before. However, going to Tajimi and learning more about tiles taught me the depth of the craft, and the experimental aspect made me very interested in using them.

7. If you have any personal memories or thoughts about tiles, please share them with us.

I’ve seen glaze used expressively many times at the Milan Furniture Fair, and you could call it a recent global trend. I think that might be because for designers there are elements that are uncontrollable, leading to unexpected results that can be exciting. It could be a kind of reaction against the current availability of tools like 3D printing and rendering that allow everyone a high degree of control. People may wish for something external to provide a chance for something accidental. I also like to work creatively in a way that is similar to a chemistry experiment.

8. In your opinion, what are the characteristics and strengths of Tajimi tiles?

Tajimi tiles differ from tiles made in other countries because each has a slightly different color and shape, which gives them the unique feel of Japanese ceramics. Tile makers in Tajimi try to continually evolve their craftsmanship and develop something more creative, and that way of thinking is their strength.

Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects
Jo Nagasaka established Schemata Architects in 1998 and is currently based in Sendagaya, Tokyo. The scale of his work ranges from furniture and architecture to urban development, while also spanning multiple genres. Working in Japan and abroad, he discovers new perspectives from within existing environments, while establishing his own vision through unique ideas such as subtraction, the update of knowledge and invisible development. Selected Works:Blue Bottle Coffee /Kuwabara shouten/ HAY.