Chinese studio Onexn Architects has squeezed Joys cafe into a space less than 2.6 meters wide in a street in Shenzhen. Joys is located in Xiangmi Third Village, a part of Shenzhen that was built in the 1990s. In recent years, the area has lost many of its community facilities, and its green spaces have been turned into high rise developments.

 JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects

“One of the goals that we shared with our client was to restore a public node on the premise of meeting functional needs,” explained the architecture studio. “The first time we inspected the site, we found many air-conditioning parts and oil stains were scattered in front of the entrance, so people had to detour to pick up clothes from the laundry or take medicines from the pharmacy next to the repair shop.”

“There was limited space where residents could stay since the site left a mingled, neglected or blurred impression,” added Onexn Architects.

 JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects

The facade is just like an installation that is embedded into the space. The eave is its extension, symbolizing the sentiment of returning home from the city. The inward-facing part of the “installation” is a curved suspended ceiling, which dissolves into the interior and relaxes customers.

The curved suspended ceiling extends from the top of the glass door to the apex of the internal space. It mitigates the oppressive feeling in this cramped and high space and brings a sense of mystery and ritual to it as well. Even when the door remains open, we can definitely feel that the ambience becomes more tranquil and warmer from the outside into the inside of the space.

 JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects

Wooden box shelves are stacked in a grid-like formation either side of the door, continuing up over part of the ceiling. This design is meant to be a space-saving solution that doubles as a decorative installation that adds to the cafe experience. At the base, boxes topped with cushions protrude from the shelves as bench seats for customers. Cupboard doors below conceal extra storage space.

The shelves frame the cafe counter, which faces towards the door. Behind, in the staff area, there are worktops, coffee machines and bakery equipment. The ladder to the office mezzanine floor can be retracted when not in use to save space.

 JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects JOYS cafe, Shenzhen, China / Onexn Architects