Coffee factory cocooned in folded concrete

by Ofentse Sefolo
Coffee factory cocooned in folded concrete

Coffee Production Plant is the latest work of Tbilisi-based bureau Giorgi Khmaladze Architects. The practice’s singular building is located on a highway connecting Tbilisi to the city’s airport, and it is home to the headquarters of Georgian coffee brand Meama.

The complex is an L-shaped building which houses the coffee production plant, offices, and spaces to hold exhibitions and tastings, all encased in a bunker-like concrete cast.

From the highway, the building’s vast green roof, covered in wild grass, helps the design blend with its surroundings. On the facade, the concrete walls rise before opening into a main lobby, where glazed walls allow natural light to penetrate the two indoor courtyards.

The concrete outer structure of the building was poured in situ and shaped to give the walls an angular structure. Given its singular geometry, the way sunlight falls on the building continuously changes during the day, creating a constant interplay of light and shadows. The height of the undulating roof adapts to the requirements of the indoor spaces and blends in with the slopes of the field.

Green roof reduces footprint impact
From above, it blends into the surroundings with a vast green roof, where occasional openings in the forms of atriums, terraces and skylights bring natural light indoors. This reduces the impact of a large building footprint, visible from the planes taking off and landing next to the site.

Given the prominent location, the city required a building that would escape the regular factory appearance, and the client’s intention was to create a strong visual identity for the newly created coffee brand. The programme required spaces that would fit both the coffee production plant with its facilities and office space, which would provide a variety of workspace arrangements, meetings and socialising areas, both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, there will be public areas which would include a coffee tasting café with small coffee exhibits.

Fit-for-purpose architecture
As a response, a regular box-like volume of a production plant required to serve the building’s primary purpose adjusts to programme components by wrapping around them. It stays high where necessary to fit production equipment and lowers where possible. The same applies to the office space, where the building shell wraps around work, meeting and rest spaces arranged on floors suspended on various levels.

The three atriums as well as the light wells and numerous skylights bring natural illumination to the work and shared spaces below. Each of the open-air atriums is filled with plants to form small green outdoor spaces directly visible from all indoor areas.

Changing appearance
From the highway, the monolithic mass with no visible openings adapted to the slope of the site is an object of curiosity. Its internal spaces are all oriented and opened towards the green park located on the back side and the sky by means of two terraces which are part of the green roof.

The all-concrete facade folds to produce double-curved geometry. Its appearance changes during the course of a day, following sun movement to produce an interplay of light and shadows.

The central entrance is formed by a narrow gap produced by lifted concrete shell, leading into a large main lobby located between two of the green atriums. The multilevel platforms for coffee exhibits and lounges are greeting visitors along the stairs and ramps leading to the coffee tasting café and the office spaces.

The underground level is mainly used for indoor parking and various storage facilities.

Materials and structure
The concrete structure with a one-way waffle slab spans up to 16m to create large unobstructed spaces. Steel floor slabs are suspended from the roof slab on various levels with the use of steel rods. The cast-in-place concrete folded facade which ages well, is a double wall with insulating layers in-between.

The 3 680m² green roof acts as an additional thermal barrier to the roof insulation. The roof is intended to grow vegetation found around the site, with wild grasses and plants to blend with the context and requiring less maintenance.

Giorgi Khmaladze Architects is one of Georgia’s most prominent modern design practices, with eco-friendly buildings designed to push traditional boundaries. One of the company’s most recent designs is a glass-walled McDonald’s and petrol station in the coastal town of Batumi.

Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
Type: Coffee factory and headquarters
Size: 9 300m²
Status: Complete
Year: 2016 to 2019
Team: Giorgi Khmaladze, Tinatin Sherazadishvili, Anuki Khutsishvili, Mako Bagishvili

For more information, visit http://gkharchitects.com/.

IMAGES BY Giorgi Khmaladze

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