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This Pop-Up Put People in a Signal-Blocking Steel Cage and Served Great Coffee

Here’s a new coffee shop design feature: A large metal cage that repels wireless signals.

A Faraday cage, a mesh cage of conductive material that blocks electric fields, was at the center of the recently opened-and-closed Faraday Cafe in Vancouver, the first cafe known to intentionally block wireless signals, preventing cell phone use and internet access.

The two-week pop-up was part of Vancouver’s Chinatown Experiment, a storefront “dedicated to pop ups.” It was so popular after its first week, that the Experiment extended its run, while the cafe added live music and held formal discussions.

(related: Coffee Retailers Influencing the Wireless Charging Industry)

The cafe was designed by artist Julien Thomas in collaboration with Hughes Condon Marler Architects as a kind of thought incubation space for visitors to consider the role of technology in our collective lives. “I think that the proliferation of digital technology like smartphones has happened so fast that we haven’t really had a chance to have a conversation about the etiquette or the ethics around their use,” Thomas told Fast Company. “I wanted to create a space outside of the media — literally outside of our access — so we could have a conversation about how we use technology.”

Visitors were also encouraged to leave notes on cups and on scrap paper finishing a sentence that begins, “Without the internet:”

(related: The Risk-Filled Ride Begins for Vancouver’s Timbertrain Coffee Roasters)

As a think piece on contemporary social spaces, the cafe has drawn a lot of attention. But what about the coffee, you ask? To Thomas’ credit, it appears he never lost sight of a coffee shop’s single most important element — no, not a big mesh cage — the coffee program. During its brief run, the Faraday served Chemex pourovers with coffees from the likes of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters (Calgary), Ritual Coffee Roasters (San Francisco), Heart (Portland) and Anchored Coffee (Dartmouth, NS) — all more-than-worthy fuel for thought.


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