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It was the third year of our undergraduate program, a new café called C6 opened near our dormitory. Soon, it became a gathering place for students. They came here for dating, chatting, reading, and partying. The owner, Zhang Fan, was also an university student, majoring in marketing.

After knowing each other better, we got to know that the little shop was his internship program for a school course. Opened for about a month, the performance of the café was proved to be nice, gradually becoming a hot spot. We liked the place and its coffee with good price and taste. Apart from visiting there as other customers, we used the space for self-organised events. C6 Salon was named after the café. Fan liked the events that involved many young and energetic university students, since the image of C6 café in his mind was vigorous, locally rooted and culturally mixed. Our posters were always on their glass.

However, it was still difficult for Fan in terms of profit. He spent a lot on high quality coffee equipments but sells incredibly cheap. He didn’t want to lose his student customers. The location was also problematic. It was close to students, but in a favela-like district, with countless, twisted single or double floor buildings, mess topography, long and narrow lanes, wires and poles, signboards with or without light, and so on. Especially during the night time, the shop was almost invisible.

Zhang asked us to think about how to make the little café jump out. We started to work on-site, being with the place, its patrons, its owner and the street outside. Before and after opening hours, we were measuring, drawing and making models. When it was busy, we became customers and observe the others. After the idea nearly formed, we did a round table meeting with Zhang and his shareholders.

urban strategy

The board, we say, were all students with totally different backgrounds, putting their spare cash into the business, little amount from each. The amazing thing was that everybody treated the moment seriously, opinions, ideas, critics flying across the table with almost visible sparks. It led us to the final proposal.