Architect Follows Passion to Launch Café Design Website

Created by Sydney-based architect Andrew Chung, Best Cafe Designs showcases creatively constructed coffee shops from around the world.


Photos courtesy of Best Cafe Designs

An architect by trade, Andrew Chung always has his eye trained on the design of the spaces he inhabits. And because he lives in Sydney, Australia—one of the world’s most vibrant specialty-coffee cultures—it didn’t take long before he started admiring the unique design of many of the city’s cafés.

“I’ve always had an interest in architecture, photography, coffee and digital skills,” says Andrew. “… I went out one day to photograph a café during a coffee break in the Sydney central business district using only my smartphone. From there, I continued to photograph one to three a day, and am currently up to 70 cafes photographed and continuing.”

With his interest in photographing cafés piqued, Andrew turned to the website Upwork for hiring freelancers around the world, where he found photographers able to take pictures of cafés in their neighborhoods in various locales.

Andrew Chung started Best Cafe Designs to highlight beautiful café spaces around the world.

Introducing Best Cafe Design

Soon, what had begun as a fun independent project for Andrew had grown into a website: He now operates Best Cafe Designs, which aims to showcase some of the best café designs from around the world.

“As an architect, the design of coffee shops holds a unique fascination for me because they serve as special places in our built environment,” Andrew says. “… What intrigues me most is the role of cafés as in-between places, bridging the gap between home and work environments.”

He continues, ”It’s within these cozy confines that individuals can break away, mix up their routines, engage in meaningful conversations, and forge deeper connections. The excitement lies in the rich diversity of designs, a reflection of the unique contexts and narratives that each café brings to its community.”

From Concept to Website

Andrew, who is a senior associate at Sydney design firm fjcstudio, had a specific ask of the freelance photographers he found on Upwork as he launched the Best Cafe Designs project.

One shop that has been featured on Best Cafe Designs is Em En Caffe in Islamabad, Pakistan, known by many as the Pink Cafe.

“I gave each person a photography brief and tips for taking architectural photos on their smartphone and received amazing responses from all corners of the world, including Pakistan, Lebanon, Vietnam, Peru, the UK, Germany, Spain, Ukraine and many more,” Andrew says.

To pair the photos with editorial content adding context, flair, and crucial info, Andrew then turned to Penelope Barker, a former magazine editor and respected writer in the architecture and design space, to craft stories about the featured shops.

Best Cafe Designs currently features 150 cafés from more than 30 countries—including Pakistan, Hungary, Peru, and Vietnam—with stories on their local coffee culture, shop design, café philosophy, and much more. 

“I’ve been involved in café design myself on occasion and realize that an immense amount of design thinking goes into the pragmatics, appearance, and identity of a café,” Andrew says. “… They all pay very close attention to the ergonomics, textures and finishes, lighting and fixtures, to produce a great user experience.”

Anni Coffee in Ca Mau in southern Vietnam, as profiled by Best Cafe Designs, has a “calm, cave like interior that riffs on natural textures of brick, timber and leather.“

Growing the Site

With Best Cafe Designs now populated with myriad café profiles, Andrew is asking those involved with interesting spaces to contribute to the site.

“From here,” says Andrew, “I am making an online journal platform for architects and café operators to publish their own café designs for a global design audience. I’ve already received submissions from reputable architects from China, Japan, Korea and the U.K.”

He adds that he hopes the website will provide an experience for visitors that’s useful on multiple fronts. “This website focuses on the design aspect of cafés, and consolidates all this information into a useful reference for designers, travelers, and café operators,” he says. “… My hope is that the website is a place people can come back to time and time again to appreciate design, and plan their next travels.”

Those interested in submitting a shop to Best Cafe Designs can download Andrew’s free e-guide on how to achieve great-looking architectural shots with their smartphone from Best Cafe Designs.

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About Chris Ryan 263 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.