The 1950s car craze had its own distinct form of architecture: Googie. In drivers’ imaginations, cars were a step on the interplanetary highway to that future date when all of us would own spaceships, and fly around like The Jetsons. What better image in which to conceive a road side cafe, therefore, than that of a flying saucer!
Urban cycling culture has adopted cafes that belong to a new architectural style, unnamed, so I will name it: The Aware Style. The furniture all came from St Vincent de Paul’s, because we are aware of the damage to Sarawak wrought by the new stuff. A shot of espresso would not fill a teaspoon, because we are aware it should be less than a mug full. On weekly rotations they use dozens of blends, each crafted to relieve poverty when and where it most hurts the third world. Free wireless keeps patrons in touch with their coworkers for awareness, out in the field (eg Khao San Road in Bangkok), and is only compatible with macintosh products purchased this week. Aware style cafes occupy cheaply converted low rent spaces on busy streets that must have no parking, to underline the point that you walked there, or cycled, because you are aware.
Key to the Aware Style, is a contrived shambolic air to belie carefully placed cues telling of the owners’ awareness. Odd gaps between Kitchen fixtures tell us they were all bought secondhand, rather than being made for the space. The banning of real plumbers, carpenters or sign writers tells you its all been done by discerning rich kids who studied something flaky like graphic design. Whole sheets of plywood and exposed concrete floors are a reminder that ingenuity trumps thoughtless buying of stuff.
We are all so aware, because of the new super highway, the one carrying info; info about fair trade ice cream, how companion animals lower our blood pressure, free-ranging our kids! It’s all too much to take in. The so called Aware Style (so called, because that’s what I’ve called it), produces buildings (mostly cafes) serving as proxies for all the awareness we have no time to accumulate personally. From my own limited awareness of Buddhism—a sacred cow among the aware—I can say the The Aware Style cafe is a Bodhisattva, something to which you can pay a donation, when you don’t have time to say your own oms.
The other way of quickly assuaging your middle class guilt, is by showing up on a non-aluminium bike. If it has a flat tire, just walk it around.