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Open> Coffee Bar
Gensler helps Intelligentsia Coffee find a local design vocabulary for its Chicago shops.
A. Wickstrom

Intelligentsia Coffee
2642 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Tel: 773.945.1690
Architect: Gensler Chicago, Todd Heiser, Design Director

Think of Intelligentsia Coffee as the anti-Starbucks, not just in the quality of its drip, but in its design mission. Instead of creating carbon copies, the Chicago-based company has engaged Gensler to create stores that fit the character of the buildings that house the cafes. “Intelligentsia is trying to change the vocabulary of what a coffee shop is by pulling from the neighborhood vernacular,” said lead designer Todd Heiser of Gensler Chicago. You’ll see this in their Monadnock branch, where the finishes respectfully interact with one of the city’s most architecturally significant buildings, and you’ll see it again in their new café situated in the Logan Square neighborhood.


Inside the cafe, the back wall is decorated with a map of the neighborhood. The more subtle references take a little time to absorb. The coffee bar is centered in the space with seating around it and several window booths. A metal trough was installed between two support columns, referencing the area’s connection to the El train. Intentionally or not, the shape and outline of the booths seems to allude to Chicago’s six-pointed star.

Ryan LaFollette