Bar del Duomo - Altamura (Ba)

A historic bar revisited

In the old town centre of Altamura, customers are greeted by a carpet of coloured tiles
Laura Maggi
Pasquale Gentile

The historic Bar del Duomo in the splendid Italian city of Altamura in the province of Bari was badly in need of renovation. Located in the central Piazza Duomo, facing onto Corso Federico II di Svevia close to the Romanesque cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, the bar has always been a popular place to enjoy a good cup of coffee or an ice cream. The renovation project was assigned to architect Pasquale Gentile, who faced the challenge of working with an approximately 90 square metre space nestled amongst the area’s historic buildings, a narrow quadrilateral 20 metres by 6 metres.
Under its vaulted ceiling, the bar has a longitudinal layout consisting of customer spaces and the food preparation area. As the architect explained, a full-height mirror was installed on the wall facing the entrance to allow for visual continuity and to extend the space optically towards a distant vanishing point. The interior stands out for its elegant simplicity and features a marble granulate finish, a traditional solution that used to be popular locally but has now fallen out of vogue, with a 95 cm high dark glazed base that simulates the plinths used to protect walls in old tenement houses. But the real centrepiece of the project is the floor covering, a large coloured carpet of 20×20 cm tiles from the Memory collection by the Florim group brand Cerim. The combination of Liberty patterns juxtaposed in a seemingly random arrangement of 4 different colours brings to mind the floors of old houses where tiles have been replaced over the years with others of different colours. The result is both inventive and visually striking.
At the entrance, customers are welcomed into a salon with a vaguely retro flavour, while the entire right hand side of the bar is occupied by a line of tables and chairs extending as far as the mirror, multiplied by the trompe l’oeil effect. The other side of the bar features a 90 cm wide custom-designed wood counter with an oak and stone chip top, a modern sideboard type unit fronted by an LED-lit display case. Despite its simplicity, it is able to perform a range of functions. It serves as a space for customers seated on high stools and incorporates an old-fashioned ice cream counter, the centrally positioned till, two drop-in windows, and at the end an area devoted to drinks and the cafeteria. Light is also used skilfully throughout the project to create visually striking effects. While the ceiling is lit exclusively by a long hidden LED strip light on the counter side of the bar, the tables and the counter are illuminated by balanced-arm lamps and classic floor lamps.

20x20 cm

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