Design Crushes-Drapers Coventry
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
I simply cannot express how much this place means to me and how much it has inspired me throughout the years. I am sitting here trying to put my gratefulness and excitement towards this place in words and sentences, and it's definitely not easy. (Dramatic, ha?)
I have studied and lived in Coventry for about 5 years and I am 100% honest when I say I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this town. I've had many happy moments and many not so happy ones. And although the city for me was small, suffocating and quite frankly sucking the life out of me, it was also the place where I've met so many lovely people, created beautiful friendships and joyful memories. (If you haven't been there... well it posses of a good mix of different architectural styles buildings, predominantly blocks of concrete and a big amount of weirdos.) A very great part of this tangle of emotions, is occupied by the quirky cafe/bar-pub Drapers. And I am crushing here! You will ask why... well let me tell you a story...
On my first day as a student at Coventry University, I and the rest of my class were invited by our then course director, to grab a cup of coffee and get to know each other. It was important for him to make sure we all get along and support each other, as we would have been our own colleagues and network in the design industry one day. I must have been so stressed and all over the place that I didn't pay any attention to the building itself, although I can faintly remember other people commenting on the assets and interesting features of the space. I didn't visit the café/bar again for the next 2 years.
May be now it's the time to give you a bit more information about the actual history and architecture of the space. The café/bar sits beside the Herbert Gallery and Museum and close to the Cathedral in central Coventry. In 1998 the site of the unfinished pre-war museum was taken over by a new pub/restaurant. The architects were Baynes & Co. of Cawston, near Rugby. Originally named Brown's had moved from the Lower Precinct to this new building. After a few incidents the bar was closed. It reopened under the name 'Drapers'.
One sunny summer day I went back to the cafe/bar for a work related lunch with a student recruitment agent, visiting from Japan. It was quiet and very pleasant. The guest lady was impressed. And I quickly started to realise how much I have missed. It is an intriguing place: the exterior has rough - cut sandstone walls, large expanses of glazing and a great curving roof that almost reaches the ground at the rear. A true work of art! Internally it is as quirky as you can imagine it to be. The space has a 'retro' 1950's feel with plenty of exposed timber. It also features the, "First use of polished microsilica concrete flooring & precast in the UK." Curved walls, signature design pieces, artwork hanging on the walls, oh and my so favourite succulents and cacti.
The teal paint on the walls perfectly matches and compliments the colour scheme of the buildings across the street. The handrail table system is a perfect example of Le Corbusier's architectural proportion principles (try it and you will know what I am talking about). Another thing to mention here is the acoustics of the space. Interiors are not just there to be beautiful, but functional as well. In this case all the wooden surfaces are contributing to the pleasent flow of sounds throughout the building. Completely thought through. It won't come out of the blue the fact that Drapers won “Best new building in Coventry“ Award. It is also one of Coventry's most successful 1990's buildings.
My personal attachment to the spaces comes from the fact that I've written 2/3s of my MA dissertation while in the building and it inspired me on many occasions, as well as loaded me with ideas for many of my university projects. Writing these lines, I can't help but feel nostalgic, may be I'll go back soon for a good cup of flat white or a pint. (bonus tip: They have a great selection of beers and ales 😉, if you know what I'm talking about!)