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Us V Them: Engineering Coffee

Us V Them: Engineering Coffee

O’DonnellBrown has completed new headquarters for Us V Them in Glasgow. The building is located at 200 Gallowgate, a stone’s throw away from the iconic Barrowland Ballroom and Barras open-air market in Glasgow’s East End.

Us V Them: Engineering Coffee, is a Glasgow-based company founded in 2017 by local entrepreneur, engineer and coffee aficionado James Aitken. The new development allows James to combine his skills and passion, merging his workshop for repairing professional coffee equipment servicing Scotland’s best independent cafes, bars and restaurants, with an espresso bar where he can share his love for coffee with others. The refurbished 120m² interior offers the neighbourhood a new gathering space to serve the burgeoning creative community, a place where they can congregate and feel united by a shared love of great coffee.

The espresso bar will serve a variety of blends, from local speciality roasters, such as Dear Green, to blends from Europe and Colombia. Located in a single-storey building on an eclectic street in the East End, the site is within the Gallowgate Transformational Regeneration Area – an ambitious programme which has led to Many Studios gallery and studio space by Glasgow architects New Practice; the thriving Barras Art and Design (BAaD) venue; and a mix of pubs, shops and restaurants.

Working to a tight budget, O’DonnellBrown sought to unify the interior in a simple and legible way. They approached the tired-looking building, which had accumulated a mishmash of alterations over the years, by shedding the layers to return to the bare bones of the original sandstone tenement. Dark stained wood panelling clads the walls, wrapping the whole perimeter, creating a clean datum for the space. With high stools arranged around the perimeter to make a COVID-secure gathering space, the panelling functions as a ledge for patrons to perch on.

The industrial aesthetic is amplified by details such as exposed steel columns and exposed ceiling services, and copper pipes and a copper cage which permits views into the maintenance workshop. O’DonnellBrown collaborated with ThreeFourFive Joinery, who fabricated the timber panels off-site using CNC machining techniques, resulting in an engineered and robust finish which aligns with the Us V Them brand, and gives the space its unique character and identity.

The architects had previously worked with the joiners, using the same off-site CNC machining techniques to fabricate their own studio, The Greenhouse, in Pollokshields. As the threat of recession brought on by the pandemic begins to impact high streets across the UK, the opening of Us V Them offers a ray of hope for independents. The summer lockdown afforded James the time and focus to get the project off the ground, and the lack of business servicing equipment allowed him time to tackle some of the strip-out and demolition himself. The name of the business alludes to the parable of David and Goliath, and the empowerment of the underdog – and in this volatile market, small and local has great potency.

PROJECT: Us V Them: Engineering Coffee
LOCATION: 200 Gallowgate
ARCHITECT: O’DonnellBrown
Us V Them: Engineering Coffee
Us V Them: Engineering Coffee
Us V Them: Engineering Coffee

Us V Them: Engineering Coffee
Joinerwork:  ThreeFourFive Joinery
Photographer:  Ross Campbell Photography

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