New punk in town
WORDS Nadine Botha PHOTOS Micky Hoyle
The new Truth HQ in Buitenkant Street, Cape Town, is stranger than (science) fiction. It is steampunk. We chat to owner David Donde and designer Haldane Martin.
“We don’t know of any other coffee space in the world that is completely steampunk,” maverick David Donde asserts boldly from his new Truth HQ coffee café and retail outlet in Cape Town.
The term “steampunk” was originally used to describe a literary sci-fi genre that proposes alternative pasts. Aesthetically it is a futuristic-style reimagining of the mechanical technology of the past. The best-known example in popular culture is the Wild Wild West film with Will Smith in 1999. Since then the steampunk movement has grown virally, becoming increasingly popular on sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Etsy.
Tasked with distinguishing David’s quirky brand of Truth from his previous enterprise, Origin Coffee, designer Haldane Martin says that it was David’s “mad cap, inventor” personality that inspired him to suggest steampunk and that it was an immediate fit.
David has certainly gone all out with bespoke head-to-toe costumes from the Little Hattery, and an upcycled and functionally enchanting interior design by Haldane. He even grew the moustache! “You can’t just glue some gears on and call it steampunk,” admonishes David, “the Truth brand is based on authenticity”.
Haldane and David worked closely on the conception, production and arrangement of the space. Says Haldane: “There was good stuff that came out of working very closely with the client and the design process being quite fluid and organic. When we needed something, we made it happen, rather than pre-planning and rolling-out. It also made it more chaotic and difficult to bill, but I think it gives the place character and uniqueness.”
The space radiates from a giant refurbished vintage coffee roaster. A bar custom-made from original raw pressed steel ceiling panels separates the operations area from the dining area, populated with over-stuffed leather and steel banquet seats, stools and chairs with copper clad tables.
Up front is “the longest communal table in Cape Town” with 24 swing-out seats made from industrial piping and power cables hanging from the ceiling, to accommodate the laptop class. Upfront are easy come-and-go tables and seats for takeaway customers.
“Steampunk has hit a zeitgeist now, or is about to. I think we’re a little ahead of the curve, but so what,” shrugs David. “There’s two sides to it. There’s that Willy Wonka fantastic element to it, but there’s also a sense of groundedness and technology we can understand. So it speaks to both sides – on the one hand we are in love with technology as a solution to our future but at the same time we’re also in fear of technology we don’t understand and technology that’s going to kill us. The Victorian time was dealing within similar issues like the smog that was choking London.”
Truth HQ, Buitenkantstraat 36, Kaapstad, 021 200 0440, www.truthcoffee.com
Haldane Martin Design, www.haldanemartin.co.za
We feature the brand new steampunk-themed Truth HQ coffee bistro in the new SPRING FLING edition of VISI magazine. See our full steampunk report here.
More from the SPRING FLING edition of VISI
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- Popcorn architecture
We have inspiration from the Architecture ZA 2012 Biennial Festival to share. Watch our online film festival and read our report back.
- Mechanical futurism
Some say steampunk is what happened when Goths discovered brown. Others say it grew out of a literary genre. Explore our steampunk trend report.
- Joburg Art Attack
For at least one week in September, Joburg was hit by an art attack. Read the post-mortem and our guide to starting an art collection, written by the experts.
- Winning wishes
In October, Warren Lewis will be giving away four paintings. Up for grabs over October and November is a Bodum Bistro Coffee Maker from Banks Kitchen Boutique. Enter the competitions here.
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