Cafe De Plek occupies the former Chapel of Saint John inside the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp's gothic cathedral.
Van Staeyen Interieur Architecten has turned the chapel into a bar, cafe and meeting space for both residents who use the building as a place of worship, and its 280,000 visitors a year.
Van Staeyen Interieur Architecten designed the cafe based on motifs, colours and structural elements from the cathedral itself.
The main addition to the space is a square, wooden structure that serves as both the bar and cafe preparation and serving space.
Three serving windows are cut out of the sides in three different shapes that match the shapes of existing windows in the cathedral – a four-leaf clover, a pentagon and a triangle with bowed edges. The entrance is a pointed arch.
The inner walls and serving counter are painted in a bright, turquoise blue that matches a shade used in the cathedral's stained glass windows.
Johan van Stayen, the studio's founder, described the style as both "contemporary Gothic" and naive in the style of the Dutch children's picture-book Miffy.
"The entire design and furniture has plenty of gothic and thematic references to the inside of the Cathedral: chapels, annexes, porches, cross ribs, vaulted ceilings, objects of art," he told Dezeen.
"The buttresses and arches are translated in the carpentry structure. Therefore it gives the impression being turned inside out – sculptured on the outside, lining on the inside."
The bar is made from French Douglas Fir, a material that was chosen to be as close to the original wooden flooring in the space as possible.
Tables within the space feature wooden tops in the same window shapes as the serving openings in the bar, supported by white, metal legs and are complemented by matching wood and metal chairs. The design is intended to echo the ribbed structure of the cathedral's vaults and pillars.
Although the cathedral sees the space primarily as a meeting place – its name De Plek translates literally as "the place" – the opening has been celebrated by the creation of two new cathedral beers, echoing the Belgian tradition of Trappist and abbey-brewed beverages.
"Antwerp is explicitly entering the market as an a-typical city," said Van Stayen. "In this sense, this cathedral bar fits perfectly. A cathedral that is on the Unesco World Heritage list with a bar in it. There are not that many in the world."
Other recent unusual projects in Antwerp include a one-room hotel inside a tiny 17th-century house and a maximalist apartment-cum-atelier and showroom by Studio Job.
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