Giant Coffee is finally open! It opened in May in fact and it’s a big hit with this coffee shop-loving architectural writer. I first went to Giant last Sunday to meet friends Aaron Kimberlin and John Jacquemart. I was absolutely delighted with it at first glance from my car.
First, I give Matt Pool, owner of Giant (along with Matt’s Big Breakfast and The Roosevelt) a big thumbs up for locating his coffee shop near McDowell and Central. This corner, significant because of the Phoenix Art Museum, needed a serious injection of the coolness factor. And Giant, along with it’s neighbor Bunky Boutique has given this neighborhood that shot in the arm called hipness which brings along with it traffic and life.
As in other successful restaurants and coffee shops in town, Giant does a good job of engaging the street. The NanaWall (the operable storefront panels), though hard to move (as seen by me, Aaron and John the other day), opens up the entire store front creating a desirable indoor-outdoor effect. Unfortunately, on this trip they had the doors closed, probably due to the hot weather, so I can’t show you photos of how cool it looks.
These glass panels aren’t just a storefront, they’re operable and they open up the entire coffee shop to the street
Upon walking in the shop, the space is lively, simple and raw. When I say raw, I mean there’s no slick finish to it, it’s goes more for the industrial-chic feel. I love the material pallette in the space. A beautiful concrete ceiling (a gift from the existing building), your typical concrete floor, lots of wood paneling (2 different kinds), and oil-rubbed steel panels.
The daylight in this space makes it lively and accentuates the beautiful material palette
Simple is hard to pull off. It’s easier to trick the occupant into thinking something is good by adding lots of materials and complexity. But merzproject, the architects (and the owners of the building), are very good at executing simple. This space is easy to figure out, and that’s a good thing. There are three distinct seating areas, each with it’s own characteristics and energy.
The lounge seating in front of the NanaWall is casual and relaxed, perfect for soaking in the views or reading a book.
The typical booth and chair seating arrangement is appropriate for meetings with friends and business associates
The more casual bench seating is great for talking and catching up with friends
And the unique architectural nod to people who office out of coffee shops
This last seating arrangement is what makes Giant unique. I love this set-up where people who’re working on their computers, often for hours at a time (I’m guilty of this myself, as I office out of Lux Coffeebar), can sit away from chatty groups and in their own quite space, perfectly scaled for a person and her laptop.
I love this gorgeous reddish wood paneling used on the demising wall between Giant and Bunky, also the entrance wall
Check out the funky, retro, industrial light fixtures!
The computer counters are constructed simply with steel angles, steel plates and plywood with a brushed steel top. Hard to see in the photo, but I love the piping used as a foot rest on the floor.
The ‘picnic table’ at the bench seating area is made from oil-rubbed steel plates, roughly connected creating a fun, textured table-top
For more of an in-depth look at the architecture of this delightful coffee shop, stay tuned for an interview with Chris Nieto, principal of merzproject and project manager of the Giant build-out.
Photo Credit: All photos by Taz LoomansTags: adaptive reuse in phoenix, blooming rock, Chris Nieto, giant coffee, industrial-chic, matt pool, Matt's Big Breakfast, merzproject, NanaWall, phoenix, phoenix art museum, taz loomans, The Roosevelt
Another delightful feature, at least for us men, is the restroom! I nominate Giant Coffee (although I believe it might share its restroom with other tenants) for best bathroom in Phoenix. Very cool space.
I personally didn’t find the computer counters to be very comfortable on my visit, but it looks as though they may have since added the foot rests? I certainly need to pay it another visit. Thanks for the tour!
Andrew, I didn’t get a chance to check out the bathrooms, but I certainly will. Bathrooms are usually a telling sign of how good the architecture is. Thanks for the heads up!
It is a great space, and part of a budding neighborhood. Just think, there’s:
* Arts & Culture ~ After Hours Gallery, Burton Barr Central Library, Cancer Survivor Park, Central Community Theater at Central Methodist Church, Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Trolley Museum, and Playhouse on the Park
* Dining ~ Along with Giant Coffee, Arcadia Farms at Phoenix Art Museum, Blue Fin, Cheuvronts, Hob Nobs, Thai Hut, My Florist Cafe, Open Book Café at Burton Barr Central Library, Zoe’s, and, okay, Jack in the Box.
* Cool spaces ~ After Hours Building, Artisan Lofts on Central, Burton Barr Central Library, Central Methodist Church, Ellis Shackelford House, Flinn Foundation building and grounds, METRO light rail station, mid-century apartments adjacent to the art museum, the vintage buildings and neon sign on the My Florist “block,” the Phoenix Art Museum inside and out, and the Viad Tower park and statuary.
* Education ~ Arizona Diamondbacks Academy, Arizona School for the Arts (with even more expansion plans), Choices Charter School at Central Methodist Church, and the myriad of after-school and weekend education opportunities at Burton Barr Public Library and Phoenix Art Museum.
But there are big, embarrassing holes…literally. The biggies: the northwest corner of Central and McDowell; the vast parking lot surrounding the corner CVS; and the neglected, junk-strewn stretch immediately east of My Florist. Another potential issue revolves around the sale of single serving liquor at a neighborhood convenience store/gas station and associated problems that arise. Ask Chris Nieto to explain.
On the books to help revive the area was a plan called Historic McDowell Now. It’s been shelved, but waiting to be revisited. Maybe NOW is the time given all the recent activity?
Thanks Jim for this overview of all the cool stuff happening in the neighborhood and some potential problems. This will be an area to keep an eye on!
[…] the founding principal of merzproject along with Joe Herzog, last week at one of their projects, Giant Coffee. merzproject is a premier up and coming architecture firm in the Valley. They’ve done […]
I wanted to inquire on the bathroom design. I have barely discovered this gem of a coffee spot and was impressed all around with the vibe. The bathroom walls were especially unique. Are you able to identify what material was used….?