The Seattle Weekly

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Bauhaus Books + Coffee (Capitol Hill)

In 1919, Walter Gropius founded a school of design in Weimar, Germany, that aimed to bring together art and functionality on the theory (as best I can tell) that art could embrace the industrial movement without losing its artistic integrity. It was called the Staatliches Bauhaus, the "house of building," initially having nothing to do with architecture or building much at all. I am no art historian, but I can google search every bit well as the next person, and my School of Googwiki educational tidbit for Friday is that the Bauhaus school, which did eventually become an architectural movement, greatly impacted... furniture design.

Try this. Go to -> Image Search -> Bauhaus furniture. "Oh look!" you will say to yourself, if you are anything like me, "It's Ikea!" So now I associate these two; my friends who are art historians will probably cringe, as I'm sure there must be more to the matter than that. But I digress.

Today's coffee house is Bauhaus Books + Coffee - 301 E Pike. My computer is on a counter belonging to one of the many floor-to-ceiling windows (all of which are surprisingly see-through), and if I tilt my head to the left, I have a decent view of the Space Needle peeking out behind a parking-lot pine tree. The area around Seattle Central Community College houses an erratic few blocks of Seattle, a convergence point between downtown and Capitol Hill, where all the old buildings have been reclaimed by new businesses, the drivers have given up on trying to get around the cyclists, and the row of people sitting in front of this window represent a wide sampling of lifestyles. There is also what may be the only palm tree in Seattle living at this corner. Poor stunted, climate-challenged little thing.

Bauhaus Coffee (pronounced [baʊˌhaʊs], or "bow-house" for those who never had to take VocalPed with Nancy Olson-Chatalas) is not striking me as a very Bauhaus. So I guess it belongs on this corner, as it may be the convergence of an idea with reality, where theory looks nothing like practice. Observe:
I like it in here. But those are not Bauhaus paintings. I'm kind of sure.

The "pros" on this location are plentiful: Bauhaus Books + Coffee has great ambience. It's two floors of seating, with an open loft, a great mix of people, a view of downtown, floor-to-ceiling windows on one side and floor-to-ceiling books on the other. The seating is brilliantly arranged, and though the furniture looks like it's all seen better days, there's almost something charming to that. I'm a big fan of the decor, with its artful graduation from deep wood colors to light-reflecting greens. The pastry case provided my laugh for the day, as it featured Ding Dongs. But more than anything, I was impressed with the lay of the building, and the fact that as I was walking through it I kept discovering unexpected seating, tucked away in cute little alcoves that gave a really-big-room the option to feel quaint and secluded.

Unfortunately, the "cons" list isn't short here either. First, as with anywhere on Capitol Hill, parking is impossible, and costly. I lucked out and found parking on the same block today, but couldn't get more than 2 hours, meaning my 4 hours worth of studying got cut short by a fear of receiving two Seattle-priced parking tickets in the same month.

Second (and emphatically more so), the music, at least today, was enough to drive a person crazy. And I like techno. But I like it when it eventually moves on, and doesn't spend 8 minutes being one unvaried track with industrial percussion akin to a shifting Transformer. Worse than the music, however, was the door. Bauhaus is in an old building, with heavy wood doors that are impossible to close quietly (I know, because I tested it on my way out). iTunes successfully drowned out the music, but did nothing for the frequent "ka-THUD-rattlerattle" of the door. Not as annoying as if every customer coming in and out triggered a bell, but annoying nonetheless on such a high-traffic door.

Finally, this being the personal one, Bauhaus serves Lighthouse Coffee, which I remain unimpressed by. They serve it because, "we think it's absolutely the best coffee in Seattle," says their barista, but I differ on that point. In their favor, here's what I will say: Finding out that they served an espresso I don't love, I decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves by ordering something with rice milk (very benevolent of me, I know). For those who have never tried steaming rice milk before - it's a pain. It burns easily, and is tricky to get any texture other than "flat" out of before it gets too hot.

One small rice milk light vanilla latte later, however, I can happily recommend the barista on duty today at Bauhaus. Not too hot, not too cold, and delicately frothed. (... the rice milk. See? this is why they warn you in middle school about the perils of punctuation.)

As an aside, returning to the matter of furniture and functionality, an elderly man just walked past the window using a metal folding chair as a walker. Perhaps this place is aptly named after all.

1 comment:

Allison said...

hehehehhe! i apologize, i have only read the first paragraph and a half, but i did cringe. eee oh that you saw "bauhaus" and thought "ikea" ahhhh! oh mercy.
but yes, the school of googwiki is quite enlightening in a general and mass produced sort of way.
but yes, i suppose, as a general glimpsing sort of "here, you get the idea" sort of way, that is one way to look at it. i'm sure i'll read the rest of your post and find i lovely. hehe.