Published: 01/01/2017

Project Term: 2017

Project Website

/ Faculty Projects

Water Street Coffee Drive-Thru

Water Street Coffee Drive-Thru is located just north of I-94 in Kalamazoo, MI. This drive-thru only building is designed to enhance the relationship between architecture and automobile by conveying moments of the cafe experience to patrons that never leave their cars.

The building’s predominately rectangular form is modified by an emergent curved wall which is extended past the south facade to increase the building’s presence from the south and shield the various services near the staff entryway. The curved wall mimics the movement of cars on the site and introduce an element of surprise by shifting the perception of the building’s size, form, and proportions as one drives around.

A large corner window, situated in a field of western red cedar, provides a strong connection between the automobile occupants entering the site and the baristas inside the drive-thru’s workspace. This moment is further enhanced by an interior, glazed ceramic wall which provides a warm and welcoming first impression.

Additionally, a horizontal window on the north facade allows views of the baked goods and other coffee shop offerings while waiting, introducing a browsing experience that eschews the small, transactional window typical of most drive-thrus.

Various brick bonding patterns were deployed across the ironspot brick façade to add variation and texture to a building that would be experienced at slow speeds. The subtle curvature of the south wall was enhanced with a sawtooth running bond that provides a dynamic and textured surface which is animated by shifting shadows throughout the day.

Christian Unverzagt, Thomas Affeldt, Danielle Tellez, Charlie Veneklase
Portfolio Drawings: Genevieve Doman, Kerry Conway

Mechanical Engineering: MA Engineering
Structural Engineer: SDI Structures
Architect of Record: PLY Architecture

General Contractor: Pioneer Construction


Christian Unverzagt

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Completed project photographs by Jeffrey Kilmer.