This DIY bakery can teach you three things about the Chinese hospitality market

Anji, China – Yakafu is a DIY bakery – that is, a spot where people can buy ready-made bread and pastries on the ground floor, along with a do-it-yourself area on the first floor where visitors can learn how to make them on their own. The space, designed by Shanghai-based studio KCA, is part of the growing trend of experiential retail/hospitality spaces in China, where the workshop is king and is allotted a permanent location within the layout.

We spoke with KCA founder Kostas Chatzigiannis to discuss the three key takeaways this project can reveal about the changing Chinese hospitality market.

[+] KEEP BETTING ON DAIRY

Let’s put it this way: if it’s got butter, it’s better. Or, in the words of Greek-born Chatzigiannis, ‘, mainly because of Western dietary habits entering the daily life of the Chinese, such as a morning or afternoon coffee, a dessert break or ice creams,’ he explained.

That means that the novelty of dairy still hasn’t wore off: the country’s proverbial lactose intolerance is slowly giving way, and consumers are interested in finding novel ways to consume ice cream, chocolate, coffee drinks and pastries. ‘That explains why there’s a process in preparing coffee similar to the tea ceremony, where you actually have your beverage made in front of you by an appointed barista.’

If it’s got butter, it’s better

[+] DIDACTIC FANTASTIC

The first floor of Yakafu is a Do It Yourself area, where adults or children can learn how to bake their own bread, cake or pastries, and decorate them. Take note: that means the 300-sq-m bakery basically has a space specifically and permanently devoted to workshops.

‘That is another growing trend in China, the DIY – any experience basically based on teaching something in a creative way,’ said the architect, who has worked with the Asian market for more than a decade. ‘And also, it is often a team-building activity for company employees and various other teams.’

We’ve been advocating for didactic elements in Instagram-friendly experiences, and this confirms that one of the largest consumer markets in the world is indeed hungry for them.

[+] SURREALISM IS REAL

This bakery features large geometric elements with terrazzo blocks of various heights and sizes back-lit with blue tones. There’s a large graphic wall made of perforated metal panels, lit in strong shades of blue and yellow. The steps and landings of the staircase that leads from the point of sale to the workshop come in irregular shapes and sizes.

The Chinese no longer want to copy… they want to create anew

In China, where visual one-upmanship has rapidly become the norm, even traditionally straightforward typologies are getting the surrealist treatment. That’s why, in this environment, it makes sense to heavily invest in an unconventional aesthetic even in a bakery. ‘The Chinese have an appetite for anything that is different, and for spaces, shapes colours and structures that are often maximal and very expressive, rather than subtle and minimal,’ the architect said. The reason? ‘Chinese contemporary culture, very much linked with the ephemeral snapshot of someone’s daily life posted on WeChat and Weibo, is basically demanding such surrealist spaces.’

But the key takeaway here is not where this surrealism is right now, but where it’s headed. ‘As the Chinese travel more and more, and they become familiar with Western cities and their architecture, they no longer want to copy and import those European styles to China,’ he stated. ‘Instead, they want to create anew.’

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