128 Podil Food Market
Fot. Andriy Bezuglov

128 Podil Food Market – innovative café in the building of the old Kiev railway station

128 Podil Food Market is the flagship of Kiev-based café chain 128, located in the building of the former Podil bus station. Four more of the chain’s cafes are located in residential complexes in different parts of the city. Each location has its own unique characteristics, but all are united by a cosy, comfortable and relaxing café format. Podil 128 was to be the first location in the city centre and at the same time test the new food market format. According to the client’s vision, food trucks would appear on the summer terrace during the warm season, hosting festivals of national cuisine.

The task was deceptively simple – to create a new place that would quickly become a community hub with a simple, familiar atmosphere. The client wanted a comfortable and understandable design with plenty of light and vegetation inside the café. Simple, aggressive angles and shiny metal elements – anything that would overly modernise the historic space of the old station building – were undesirable.

Photo by Andriy Bezuglov

128 Podil Food Market

Work on the premises was halted due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – 128 was due to open in spring 2022. Construction resumed after the winter power cuts, in spring 2023. The former bus station building was in a very neglected state. Its space was divided into numerous and cramped rooms full of Soviet-era office furniture. Internal partitions had to be dismantled to enlarge the space and let more light into the café. At the same time, all load-bearing structures had to be preserved – the building was very old and had undergone multiple alterations, so that the walls were literally cracking. Almost all surfaces were a challenge – the walls and ceiling were very uneven.

Working with historic buildings always brings unexpected discoveries. During the demolition, a yellow classical Kiev brick, characteristic of buildings from that period, was discovered, with a walled arch structure and basement. The brick became the authenticity that the architects at balbek bureau were aiming for in project 128. On the left side of the façade, the plaster was refreshed and the bricks around the entrance were cleaned. The historic brick arcade was also restored – the entrance arch was decorated with yellow bricks left over from the demolition. After the complex demolition was completed, it became necessary to reinforce the building columns with metal cladding – this was needed for safety reasons.

Photo by Maryan Beresh

According to the concept, the interior of the premises refers to the theme of Podolia. The entrance is designed in the form of a glazed vestibule, protecting guests seated on either side of the entrance from draughts. On the floor of the vestibule, the same paving was used as on a section of the summer terrace, bringing the street inside and visually connecting the interior with the exterior. Upon exiting the atrium, visitors are greeted by the first lobby and bar. DIY lamps hang above the bar. To the left is a passageway to a second, more secluded lobby, where lounge-style seating awaits guests. The kitchen area of the premises is partly open – in the pastry shop, separated by glass from the lobby, the bakers bake cakes and bread. Visitors can watch them work, order a coffee or choose a dessert from the display. A lightbox menu made of colourful plates hangs above the patisserie. The lightbox refers to the former bus station and timetable.

All the furniture chosen for the café is of Ukrainian origin. Tables and shelves were custom-made by Ukrainian craftsmen based on designs and sketches made by balbek bureau. For the decoration of 128, the owner brought a large stack of posters from New York in various formats. The architects selected the best ones and hung them on the walls. This adds spatial detail, a sense of cosiness and allows visitors to view the walls while waiting for their orders. During construction, an old map of Ukraine was found, which was cleaned, framed and used in the interior.

To the right of the entrance are two toilets: a standard one and one for people with reduced mobility. Multicoloured recycled tiles were used to decorate the floor, which were then cut into pieces and embedded in micro cement, all polished. Green stains on the walls add a playful touch to the room. Both booths have cast-iron garden sinks with distinctive taps. Another sink is made from an IKEA table – a hole has been cut in the countertop for the sink. The blue neon sign above the sink creates a recurring effect.

128 Podil Food Market
Photo by Maryan Beresh

Opposite the entrance to Podol 128 Food Market, food trucks will stand. An area has been obtained in the form of a sloping car park along the façade. In order to organise an outdoor seating area, it was proposed to cut out a piece of asphalt, level it horizontally and lay paving stones on which the tables would be placed. In this way, a large asphalt space in front of the premises was separated and integrated into the main facade. In the summer, the space will be complemented by benches and tables – along the side façade, under the chestnut trees – several seating areas are planned – as well as greenery.

The creators of the project, architects Slava Balbek, Lena Briantseva and Vitalina Hoshovska see Podil 128 Food Market as an opportunity to breathe new life into a historic building and work on their beloved Podil. “Despite all the challenges of the project, we have created a place with soul and we are already looking forward to the first street food festivals in the shade of the old chestnut trees,” the architects write.

Podil 128 Food Market
Architects: Slava Balbek, Lena Briantseva, Vitalina Hoshovska
Project area: 205 m2 ( terrace 583 m2)
Project year: 2023
Location: Kiev, Ukraine
Photography: Andrey Bezuglov, Maryan Beresh

Source: balbek bureau

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