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The Hive Café: honesty in design

From its manifesto to mason jars, Loyola's new Hive Café will be sustainable and affordable
May 2, 2011
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By Justin Giovannetti
Source: Concordia Journal

A vernissage for students who redesigned the Hive with a sustainability mandate provided asneak peek at the space that will reopen in September. | Photo Concordia University
A vernissage for students who redesigned the Hive with a sustainability mandate provided asneak peek at the space that will reopen in September. | Photo Concordia University

Loyola’s Campus Centre took another step towards fulfilling its mandate on April 20 when the student-redesigned Hive Café was unveiled to Concordia at a vernissage for the design students who contributed to the space.

“Cafés are places for communication and interaction, two things that Loyola is really lacking,” said Cameron Stiff, the café’s start-up coordinator, who was hired as an intern through last summer’s Food Systems Project. “Loyola also lacks good food options. We want to provide people with something that tastes good, is affordable and ethical.”

Planning for the long-anticipated café began nearly a year ago when the Concordia Student Union (CSU), which manages the space, decided to rework a business plan with a sustainable triple bottom line (social, economic and environmental). Antonio Starnino, the CSU’s graphic designer, heard about the Hive project and spoke with professors pk langshaw, Sarah Greig and Andrew Dolan, who teach DART 392 - Collaborative Design Research. They all agreed that developing a physical manifestation of the café’s sustainable business principles would be a great class project.

Vivien Leung was one of the students that took up the sustainable design challenge. | Photo Concordia University
Vivien Leung was one of the students that took up the sustainable design challenge. | Photo Concordia University

“I approached the teaching team about the idea and they were really excited. When Cameron was hired as the coordinator I started working with him and we had a team to get this off the ground,” said Starnino. “I was really intimately involved in the design aspect and Cameron filled in a lot of the gaps, especially when it came to sustainability.”

“Everything was designed with a clear purpose and a story to tell,” said Vivien Leung, one of the students who spent much of the last semester planning and designing the café’s furniture, manifesto and art. “All the materials were previously used, and we believed in the honesty of materials; we didn’t try to hide their origins.”

With the design class divided into teams dealing with different parts of the project from lighting to signage, Leung said coordination was key.

“We had a really strong emphasis on delivery,” said Leung. “We had to make sure that there was a clear vision for the project, not just a hodgepodge of ideas. It was all about the internal coordination.”

Those entering the café are greeted by a bold manifesto proclaiming, “Long live the mason jar,” a tribute to the reusable, durable symbol of the sustainability principles adopted by the design class. Students showed off their products, some of which are final, some of which, due to course budget restraints, are prototypes for items that will be financed by the CSU.

“I think the professors learned from past experience and one of the things that they pushed this year was the emphasis on deliverables. It wasn’t just a creative product, but a product which would be used,” said Starnino.

“At a certain point, students who have to work in groups need to learn how to keep their creative egos in check. This was a great project for them to understand the sociological, practical and sustainable impact of their work,” says langshaw.

While langshaw admitted that grading the projects would be difficult — because of the collaborative emphasis and the steep learning curve for students — the teaching team is very pleased with the project results and is excited to see the completed café when it reopens in September. Over the summer, nearly a dozen students will help Stiff build the café.

Related links:
•   The Hive Café
•   Concordia Department of Design and Computation Arts



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