White steel furniture with indigo blue upholstery in seating area of Mini Cuppa tea shop by Raams Architecture Studio

Raams Architecture Studio stacks 388 white blocks to form Shanghai tea shop

Raams Architecture Studio has used white MDF blocks to line the Mini Cuppa cafe in Shanghai, China, in homage to the modular cube system employed by Frank Lloyd Wright across his seminal Textile Block Houses.

Located in a newly developed area in west Shanghai, the 90-square-metre shop sells cheese tea – a cold infusion blended with seasonal fruits and topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese.

Wall of white cubes and small seating area in Shanghai's Mini Cuppa cafe
Above: lacquered MDF blocks were used to line the cafe's walls. Top image: tubular white furniture anchors the seating area

According to the studio, the tea is traditionally consumed by the older generation in China and is generally more popular among men. But Mini Cuppa was designed to be an inclusive space that appeals to different generations and genders.

In a nod to cream cheese as the cafe's key ingredient, its airy interior is cast predominantly in white and accented with reeded glazing, marble tabletops and bright blue upholstered seating.

Reeded glass windows and white steel seating in tea shop by Raams Architecture Studio
Reeded glass windows diffuse the light coming into the interior

Mini Cuppa's counter, facade and interior walls are lined with 388 blocks of white-lacquered MDF, which was cut with a CNC router and stacked in parallel rows using magnets.

This construction was informed by the modular, patterned concrete blocks that American modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright used in the 1920s to form his quartet of Textile Block Houses.

Marble panelling and white MDF blocks in seating area of Mini Cuppa cafe
The walls are paneled in peachy-pink marble

"The simple assembled system can adapt to the brand's future spaces, creating infinite layouts and making each shop feel similar but new and unique," said Raams Architecture Studio, which was founded by German Roig and Natalia Moreno in 2018.

"The framed facade is an eye-catching element that attracts people passing by and distinguishes Mini Cuppa from the neighbouring shops."

White MFF blocks form storage wall in tea shop by Raams Architecture Studio
The MDF blocks were also used to create shelving

A selection of the blocks is illustrated with hand-drawn graphics, created by Roig to represent the practical steps and sensory experience of making tea.

Reeded glass windows turn the garden outside into a calm, blurred green backdrop while creating a sense of privacy for the customers inside.

The shop's custom furniture was designed and produced by Raams Architecture Studio, which is based between Shanghai and Valencia.

This includes the tables with their pink marble tops as well as the tubular white seating, upholstered in vibrant indigo blue.

Communal table with marble top and white block wall in Mini Cuppa cafe
A communal sharing table stands at the centre of the space

Large slabs of peachy-pink marble are mounted on the walls to match the tabletops and frame the built-in benches.

A curved, 3.5-metre-long table sits at the centre of the space, nodding to the communal dining culture of China and the Mediterranean.

Communal marble table with central plant pot in tea shop by Raams Architecture Studio
A custom planter helps to create privacy for customers

In the middle of the table, a customised plant bed serves as a visual divide and creates a greater sense of privacy.

In Bangkok, Austrian architecture studio Precht used a similar approach when designing a cafe for coffee brand % Arabica. Its interior features more than 7,000 handmade bricks that form the floors, walls and stepped seating.

Photography is by DING Yuhao.