Double Overhead is the product of a design studio at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Led by Professor Kyle Talbott, this studio challenged students to explore emergent qualities in ordinary building materials at full scale. Compelled by this ethos, the student design team responsible for Double Overhead began to call themselves Grit Tank and sought out a client in a local coffee shop.
photo credit: Bilal Sayyed
From the surfer’s lexicon of maritime terminology, “Double Overhead” is used to describe a wave that is two times the size of the surfer’s body. A rare occurrence, a double overhead wave is an opportunity that beckons all generations of surfers. As a lighting structure for a small coffee bar in post-industrial Milwaukee, the title conjures visions of the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. A median between barista and patron, the parametrically-designed light filter houses a more traditional track system and responds to the physical and experiential dynamics of the Roast Coffee Co. service counter. Mass-customized components drop to partition intimate café seating from noisy barista clamor and rise for transactions of coffee and conversation.
Exploiting the shop’s eclectic mix of 1950’s modernist features with home-brewed touches, the materiality of the luminous curtain reflects an ethos of vintage and polish. Salvaged tube steel creates a skeleton that supports a cladding of reclaimed woods, including oak from a 150-year-old church and pine from a 100 year old barn. Inspired by water kinetics, the mixture of wood types cultivates a pattern of swells and compressions. Strands of recycled transparent materials run concurrently with the wood. These glowing capillaries constrict where a muted ambiance is desired and swell where a bright task light is preferred. Responding to service counter dynamics, the elevations build momentum around critical exchange points between barista and patron. Transparent materials are interwoven to illuminate task areas for the baristas. Routed with variegated streaks, the strands agitate the quality of luminosity. From underneath, these brilliant stripes glisten and undulate not unlike the steam rising from the nearby espresso machine.