Cafe Hunter: Luft Cafe

From Hawaii to Seoul

Story by: Becky White

Photos by: Ahn Dong Ho 

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Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, also known by his moniker Le Corbusier, and one of the pioneers of modern architecture, wrote often on the importance of light, space and the things that transform a structure of physical materials into a place for the living. 

“You employ stone, wood and concrete,” he wrote in 1923, “and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. Ingenuity is at work.” 

Perhaps the most significant things that can change a building are light and space. Warm, natural light that streams in through a wide window reveals the beauty of a single, white-walled room, which otherwise might appear enclosed and frightfully tight. The way space is used dictates how calm or frenzied an interior feels. After those two, crucial foundations, light and space, are properly set, the rest of the room decor are simply embellishments to give personality. 

“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”

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Where do we find light, space and order in a bustling, cramped, crowded, and noisy city such as ours? I often long to shut out the endless tramping to and fro of strangers and cars to find peace of mind, but wish to remain a part of everything all at once. I have found these sorts of places where one can feel safe from the outside bustle and stress in the oasis-like comfort of beautiful cafes. Perhaps it’s my inclination for minimalism that draws me to particular places, but I begin to wonder if it’s not simply my humanness that brought me to this particular cafe. Humanity’s unanimous love of light and order are met here in Luft Coffee. 

Two of the four walls are composed of high-reaching glass, allowing light to shamelessly pour into the single, open room. Creamy whites and fair pastels are gentle on the eyes and in contrast give way to the “Hawaii to Seoul” neon sign that beams above the bleacher-like wooden seats. Luft coffee is also a bakery, serving sugar-dusted, colorful buns filled with custard, square breads and flaky croissants. In the morning at opening, the baked goods sit in straight lines on their pans, mirroring the symmetry of the cafe’s interior. 

It’s quiet inside at this hour. Two cafe workers quietly chat behind the open counter, donning aprons and cheerful demeanors. The high ceiling gives way to space and more space, giving room for the cafe to fill with air and clear sunshine. A large speaker embedded into one of the walls, out of reach without a ladder, plays music that adds warmth to the peaceful interior. I can only smile as I sip my latte. The foam in my cup is formed like a heart.

The coalescence of light, space and order in balance do more than make beautiful houses and palaces. Or cafes. 

“That is construction. Ingenuity is at work,” as Le Corbusier said. Though we cannot stop there. 

“But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: "This is beautiful." That is Architecture. Art enters in.”

Luft Coffee in Gwanghwamun is composed of this space, light and order, and here, art enters in.

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Hours: Weekdays: 7:30 am - 9:00 pm / Weekends 10:00 am to 9:30 pm

Location: 1F, Granseoul, 33 jongno, Jongnogu, Seoul

Plastic Free: Getting there… they still serve one-use cups for seated customers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/luft_coffee

Sean Choi