The Chestnut Tree Cafe


Speculative design



“Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me”
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell


The Chestnut Tree Cafe is a theatrical café environment that combines a love of architecture, literature and interactive performance. It encourages casual coffee drinkers to interact with a unique sensory environment that is part building, part stage set and part art installation. In doing so participants will reveal a narrative that initially appears warm and welcoming but hides a dark and sinister truth.


The Chestnut Tree Cafe is in fact two very different spaces. Upstairs is a bright, pleasant, fully functioning pop up café serving a variety of coffees and snacks. This space contains a bar, seating and tables, the only indicator that this is not a typical coffee shop is the brightly coloured periscopes emerging from the centre of each table.


Below the main café space is a hidden world accessible through a hidden stair case located behind the bar. Curious visitors who descend these stairs are greeted by a cramped, dimly lit subterranean basement space. You initially enter into the briefing room space where the secrets of the Chestnut Tree Cafe are revealed and you are invited to switch from the role of Winston to that of Big Brother. The briefing room leads to a series of narrow corridors within the walls and floor of the café above. The route leads you to a series of small, dark chambers. These chambers are in fact the underneath of the tables that you were sat at above just moments before. They contain periscopes with which you are able to observe the unwitting proles above going about their daily lives.