Coffee shops have become an integral part of modern society, and finding new and creative ways to connect the public with a source of caffeine is challenging architects and designers. Not every cafe and coffee shop needs to be constructed on a large scale in order to be iconic and unique. These small-scale coffee shops have popped up the world over, combining fantastic design and creative aesthetics to create one of a kind experiences for their customers.

Third Wave, Torquay, Australia

In keeping with its name, the undulating façade of Third Wave imitates the rolling waves along the Victoria coastline in Torquay, Australia. The small structure was designed by Tony Hobba Architects in order to provide basic facilities to beach-goers along the popular visitors spot.

The design of Third Wave Kiosk meets recreation and tourist requirements while respecting the coastal environment. Image source

Constructed from weathered self-supporting steel piles that are typically used for constructing seawalls and piers, each pile is slotted together without any additional fixings. The large corrugated walls around the kiosk were chosen for their ideal combination of affordability and durability, with the sheets doubling as retaining walls against the adjacent sand dunes.

The exterior of the robust form, in Cor-Ten steel, has weathered beautifully, further enhancing its connection with the landscape. Image source

"The height and profile of the building has been designed to respond to the prevailing coastline undulations and windswept vegetation, and uses these natural inflections to inform its final folded appearance," say the architects. "These sheet piles have intentionally been left in their original condition to emphasise the reddish brown and yellow oxides of weathered steel and harmonise with the colour of the surrounding cliffs."

The building is a meeting point for walkers and local surf schools, and provides a connection to the beach without overstating its presence on the site. Image source

The structure has no fixed footings, meaning that it could easily be dismantled and re-erected in other locations. However, the current spot does also provide accompanying outdoor seating and an elevated lookout point, featuring retaining walls of the same sheet metal.

Happy Bones, Brooklyn

Proving that there is always room in your life for great coffee, Happy Bones coffee shop was constructed in a former alleyway and measures just 432 square feet.


Snugly fit between two buildings in NYC's SoHo neighborhood, the Happy Bones café embraces an industrial aesthetic while maximizing space for its customers. Image source

Designed by architects Hannah Chiaroni-Clarke and Danu Hassik, and interior designer Ghislaine Viñas, the small space in Little Italy, New York ‘exists to inspire and energise New Yorkers’, according to its New Zealand founders Luke Harwood, Jason Woodside, Kirsten and Craig Nevill-Manning.

A minimalist look is a step away from traditional coffee shop design. Image source

The coffee shop was envisioned as a space that was both bold and soothing, a strong departure from the typical coffee shop look and feel. The minimalist convention features whitewashed brickwork, steel mesh displays, and a large skylight above the eye-catching counter at the end of the shop.

There’s always room for great coffee, with coffee shops popping up in alleyways in Brooklyn, New York. Image source

Briggo Coffee Haus, Austin, Texas

Briggo coffee haus in Austin, Texas. Image source

Coffee shops can’t get much more compact than the Briggo coffee haus in Austin, Texas. Measuring just 4' x 12' x 8', the retro-looking edifice created by San Francisco–based design firm Fuseproject is the first of what the coffee company hopes will be a new trend in coffee shops.

The machine-operated vendor looks ideal for hospitals, airports, colleges, and corporate campuses across the USA. Fashioned out of wood veneer with aluminium accents, the outpost also features a glass panel that allows customers to watch the mechanism at work.

Briggo's Coffee Haus is now in use at the University of Texas at Austin. Image source

After a break in service, the automated coffee stop re-opened to customers on the University of Texas campus. Paired with direct-trade coffee suppliers, orders are placed either on a touch screen panel or directly through their iPhone or Android app.

Noorderparkbar, Amsterdam

This coffee pavilion in North Amsterdam’s Noorderpark was created by design firms Bureau SLA and Overtreders W. Comprised of three units that were originally built for a temporary hospital, the pavilion was constructed from repurposed materials, all bought second-hand at, a Dutch eBay type site, from around a hundred individuals and small traders.

Coffee pavilion in North Amsterdam’s Noorderpark. Image source

The wood was treated with an ancient Japanese technique called shou sugi ban in order to increase its durability. One of the units which contains the bar, as well as two restrooms, was given new facades made of windows, and a roof made of skylights. The other units, stacked on top of one another, frame the terrace.

Bar area is enclosed with a ceiling and walls of assorted windows. Image source

The whole pavilion can be closed at night with large wooden shutters to prevent it from being vandalized.

Tiny Coffee House

Coffee Shop culture is bigger than ever, and Northern Europe have officially claimed the title of the biggest coffee-drinking countries in the world. Countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden are all in the top ten, with as much as 12 kg of coffee per person being consumed each year!

To help the Scandinavians keep warm during the winter months, Buildner is partnering with “Kremm Coffee and Gelato” for the Big Tiny Coffee House Challenge to create a series of iconic coffee kiosks that could be constructed in capital cities across Europe.

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Enter Architecture Competitions

Curious about the value of architecture competitions? Discover the transformative power they can have on your career - from igniting creativity and turning designs into reality, to gaining international recognition.

Learn more