The entrance to Recess.
Kris Tamburello
The interior of Recess is both dark and light at the same time.

60 University Place
Tel: 212-228-5586
Designer: scalar Architecture

For an establishment that focuses on hot coffee in the winter and frozen yogurt in the summer, a nimble design that makes it equally inviting in both seasons is a plus. That was the challenge faced by the designers for Recess, a cafe that opened this summer at the corner of University Place and 10th Street. scalar Architecture built their strategy around the goal of allowing as much flexibility as possible while still looking non-generic.

 “We didn’t want the space to be a neutral box,” said Julio Salcedo, founding partner of scalar. He molded the cafe’s lower walls, counter, floor, and furniture out of the renewable bamboo blend PlyBoo, whose light and dark striations maximize the design’s aesthetic range. “By being able to play up the dark or light of the material, we have the upper hand in terms of being able to transform it,” Salcedo said.

LED lights on the ceiling can be programmed depending on season and time of day, creating a cool, refreshing atmosphere conducive to selling smoothies in summer, or a warmer vibe for winter. A fabric made of recycled polymers drapes down from the ceiling, dampening sound and partially covering the café’s windows, lending an air of mystery from the street. The cafe’s interior delivers satisfyingly on that promise with offbeat angles, including walls that tilt to allow customers to lean against them while they sip their drinks—in a non-generic way, of course.

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