How Cyber Cafe Design Can Revolutionize “Sense of Place” By Bridging Between the Physical and Digital World

Image: Aka Hige | Flickr
Image: Aka Hige | Flickr

Many major companies and institutions (like Starbucks and some major airports) are now making sure to include free WiFi wireless connection to boost sales through major increases in customer traffic. And in doing so, they are using this incentive for customers to come in and buy their products and services.

But, as more and more people come to these venues with their mobile digitally connected technologies, what does that mean for the design of the buildings which house them? How do you as an architect account for higher volumes of traffic that may congregate, use the space differently, and be technologically connected at just about all times?

Almost gone are the few coffee shops where the space is simply a place to enjoy that warm cup of coffee and perhaps a slice of desert with a friend or with a good book. Instead, being added to that picture, is the rapidly increasing popularity of free WiFi connection — which, with it, is bringing about some new occupant interaction behaviors within such established institutions like cafés and airports.

In fact, I went into a café recently and saw their new renovation which “updated” their previous standalone tables and chairs to now be replaced by one elongated cafeteria-style table where cyber café customers now sit with their laptops, androids, ipads, and other mobile devices. What I find interesting is that in a world where so many people are “on the go”, it seems that mobile devices are simultaneously better connecting them to information, while also disconnecting them from various social or “sensorial” interactions. Being interpreted loosely, being “on the go” time-wise does not necessarily mean moving between only physical spaces, but it can now mean moving between virtual ones as well.

A Place Where Bits Merge with Bites

Thus, I think it is the new challenge for architects to straddle both areas — providing building occupants with both greater digital world connectivity to social and informational networks while also providing them with a way to “disconnect”, or better “bridge” with the physical world so they can sensorially experience what is happening around them in real time. After all, I think that the two can work together very well for people, as they feed in and out of each other. For example, your design could [Read more…]