Paras Cafè, or the Mediterranean according to The Swimming Pool

Young, Shanghai-based studio The Swimming Pool may only have been launched in 2014, but it already has an impressive portfolio of completed projects in the restaurant industry. Its most recent project is Paras Café, which opened in Hongqiao Vanke Center in 2016 and sees The Swimming Pool showcase its take on the Mediterranean – or its colours, at least. Hongqiao Vanke Center – a new office and retail complex designed by NBBJ for the Vanke Corporation – is at the centre of the newly designed and built Hongqiao Central Business District, which sprawls off to the west of downtown Shanghai, covering a total surface area of some 86 km2.

Paras Cafè offers the locals a clean, bright space, where the simplicity of the layout is matched by the meticulous colour composition. The 130 m2 space is divided into three main functional sections: the private kitchen and service areas, the entrance with the counter and the space with tables and chairs looking out on the square outside.

Looking at the café as a whole, what stands out is the clear contrasts at play in the internal spaces, not least the great swathe of quintessentially Italian blue that merges the top of the walls with the ceiling. This bright, indigo blue is offset with extreme clarity by the square ceramic square tiles in glossy white that cover the walls, while the large metal structure – with trapezoidal cut-out pattern – in matte white underlines the contrast, hanging over the marble counter and long central table. The third star of this almost abstract symphony of space and colour is the pinky wood used for the seats and tables. When you look in greater detail, your gaze is drawn to the trompe l’oeil-style effect of the white walls, the crystal glass balls of the ceiling lamps, which reflect in the perfectly round mirrors on the back wall, and the geometric, multi-colour “carpet” which splits an otherwise anonymous floor in two.