Tianjin’s Idea | Design Works Competition

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

One of the Team Mahali resident architects, Vikash Parbhoo, recently received international accolades for demonstration of innovation and design at the China-Italy Design Works Competition. Below he reflects more of what this project entailed.

By Vikash Parbhoo


On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Italy, the China-Italy Development Creative Center (CIDCC) launched a series of activities focused on art and design. An architectural and interior design competition being one of the events, which I was fortunate to have been part of. The inspiration for the event was drawn from the unique and beautiful cultural characteristics of the Wudadao tourism area in Tianjin, and the charm of CIDCC, as the central area of the cultural industry.

As such, designers from around the globe were invited and could participate in the “Tiajin’s Idea” Design Works Competition. The core themes of the project focused on the brand “Mimi E Coco” - Italian Cultural Space Planning and Design, Art Installations, and Cultural & Creative Development”. Besides being a creative hub for fashion, furniture designers and architects from China and abroad, the China-Italy development creative centre is the home of creativity and extravagance. Thus, it makes for an excellent location for the new Mime E Coco Italian Coffee and Night Bar.

Competition Brief

The brand, Mimi E Coco, aims to be the first Italian coffee, art, and culture landmark space in Tianjin. Therefore, the brief required designers to produce something that reflects the Italian cultural theme within the context of China. This had to be made possible using an existing building of heritage value as the site. The space had to accommodate dual functions of a coffee bar, cocktail bar, takeaway area, art displays and sales for crafted items. Furthermore, sustainable materials, smart technologies, smooth moving lines and energy conservation principles had to be taken into consideration.

Project Site

The existing building for the competition reflects a classical style of European architecture. This can be noticed with the exposed brickwork, embellishments, and large windows with timber frames. Internally, the open-plan space features high ceilings, chandeliers and a simple colour palate. All of these elements are respected in Italian culture and make it a unique landmark to house artisanal coffee tasting, sweet treats and a night bar for an eclectic and elegant experience for anyone. Thus, the brickwork, large windows and open-floor plan is something to take through for the proposed design.


My design aims to reflect the architecture and interior which respects Italian culture. It aims to reflect a space where you can experience various types of coffee and delicacies, whether its on-the-go or for sit down. The new Mimi E Coco Italian Coffee and Night Bar aims to be more than your usual café to grab a drink or slice of cake. It aims to be an experience. A place which houses local and international art pieces, a place where you can purchase various coffee making kits, or a place to meet your friends to call your ‘go-to-spot’.


The process of the activities was carried out in three phases: “Creative Idea”, “Detailed Design” and “Project Construction”. The first two phases were part of the competition, meanwhile, in the "Project Construction" phase, the final winning project was selected and manufactured.

I was fortunate enough to have been shortlisted for the two phases of the competition. This resulted in me receiving an Award of Excellence for my design and innovation, which included a certificate from the organizers and a metal commemorative brooch of "Creative Tianjin"(“创意天津”). I was offered the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony at the Tianjin Civic Park Stadium in Tianjin, China. However due to the global pandemic this was not possible, and attendance remained virtual. I am grateful to have been shortlisted while receiving an award in an international design competition and anticipate in partaking in more, moving further in my architectural career.