Aston Gilbert - an invisible café in the shade of the rubber plantation

The beauty of a modern café is no longer just the exterior shell of the building; instead, it incorporates the agricultural context and surrounding nature to create a dimension to the space, creating a new attraction and relaxation area. Just like Aston Gilbert, a modern café in the heart of a rubber plantation in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, the designers’ team at VARC HD+ID  created a space that absorbs the natural atmosphere surrounding the area and used glass to decorate the building, making it looked in harmony with the rubber plantation.

Located in the heart of Rubber Plantation, Nature, and Community

The owner wants to expand more branches of their café business and build a modern-style café on the 13-Rai Rubber Plantation. The café should be simple yet outstanding and intriguing enough to be one of the landmarks of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province.

“Since the location of the project is in Phrom Khiri District, whose context is particularly natural, contains agriculture as well as roads leading to small communities surrounding the area, it is important to consider the setting when designing a modern-style structure.”

Integrate the building in the rubber plantation until it becomes a harmonious piece of land

With the nature of the rubber plantation arranged in a traditional grid pattern, the architect constructed a two-story rectangular building and inserted it into the grid of trees to make the building and the rubber plantation become the same part. However, since the rubber plantation area is so large that the café’s boundaries cannot be perceived, the architect designed the brick ventilated walls that encircled the area along with two small courtyards for sitting and enjoying the coffee and the exterior. The brick-ventilated walls and courtyard provide ventilation and light to the building due to the extremely humid tropical southern climate.

The mirror tiles create a dimension for the café to be invisible while blending in with nature

The highlight of this café is the mirror tiles slope façade that slices through the center of the building’s mass, forming the Approach. As you enter the café, the mirror gradually reveals the invisible building inside. The mirror wall also creates a clearer boundary of the usable area, while reflecting nature and the surrounding setting, bringing everything together harmoniously.

Create a seating area to overlook the tops of the rubber trees

For the interior space on the first floor, the architect divided the space into two parts: the Speed Bar and the seating area for drinking coffee. If anyone wants to see the view and enjoy the breeze, they can sit on the second floor, which is designed to be airy and not air-conditioned. Visitors could also see the top of the rubber tree swaying in the wind around the area. The rubber tree in each season will give a different ambiance that can create a fresh experience while sipping coffee. It is also equipped with a rotatable tile mirrors façade to add the dimensions of natural context reflection in another way.

“The materials used in the design of the buildings were all sourced from local shops. The walls, for example, were made using simple white plastered masonry methods to accentuate the shadows cast by the light on the trees. And, because of nature, we chose to bare the concrete surface for the round columns to convey nature as much as possible.

Rubber trees make it difficult to construct

During the construction phase, the team could cut down fewer rubber trees within the boundaries of the building as much as feasible. However, when digging up the soil to form the foundations, they often found subterranean roots all over the area that must be avoided to protect surrounding rubber tree roots. Furthermore, bricks must be laid around the foundation to avoid the foundation from harming the structure in the future.

“The whole construction was done by local contractors with the limitations that the contractors had never worked in this style before. Communication became of the utmost importance at that time, such as the installation of numerous small pane mirrors. Therefore, we have to keep providing information and be ready to try and learn alongside the contractor to minimize damage or repeated revisions, which is considered quite a challenge.”

A café that creates value for the surrounding context

When designing a café nowadays, what needs to be considered is to create a contextual appeal through space thinking and to create value for the area and the surrounding community. In addition to the attractiveness of the café, in terms of products and menus, the owner has selected local ingredients to create value, which benefits the local people while also creating interesting products for the café.

“We aim to provide clients with a fresh experience of drinking coffee every day, and we want to be one of the tourist destinations where they can feel the community and rich nature of Phrom Khiri district when they arrive in Nakhon Si Thammarat and visit our café.”

Owner : ภวัต สุวรรณมาส
Architectural & Interior Design :VARC HD+ID
Photographer : adisorn

Watsapon Vijitsarn

Watsapon Vijitsarn