Protagonist, industrial café-bar, by Balbek Bureau

March 26, 2020

Protagonist is a café-bar located in a historical part of Kharkiv, Ukraine. It is a hangout place for the creative and imaginative people, to share ideas and express themselves. Every guest here is a ‘protagonist’ – a leading character of their storylines, and an advocate of the creative ideas.


Designed by Balbek Bureau

Photographed by Andrey Bezuglov / Yevhenii Avramenko


It is a loft with concrete pillars that we stripped of old finishes to reveal the beauty of the ceiling's textures and intricate backside prints of previously
removed floor tiles. These were the key elements we wanted to preserve, thus emphasizing the original architectural design of the building.

One of our tasks was to divide the space into functional zones and process flows. Thus, we designated the back of the room as a technological zone,
while the central part along panoramic windows became the main dining area. A communal table that can accommodate large groups was placed in
the middle of the room, and a full-size bar was positioned to the left of the table.

We stationed the DJ to the right side of the table, while soft seating – armchairs and sofas, - together with small tables for two were placed behind
the DJ, along with panoramic windows. With exception of the communal table, most of the furniture elements were designed and produced by our
furniture brand propro.

No bar can exist without music. The owners of the establishment, being true connoisseurs of quality sound, have placed a great emphasis on sonic
equipment. They chose Void Acoustics, a leading manufacturer of the audio systems for the installed and live sound markets. Void makes it possible to not only play background music, and also to host parties with invited DJs.

The hip theme of vintage design can be traced throughout the room. It can be seen in authentic wall panels of tempered glass, that we salvaged during the deconstruction of an old building. It is also in the DJ's control panel that we created by modernizing a vintage radiogram. An aged mirror on the back wall creates an effect of the visual infinity, multiplying objects and adding perspectives.

The DJ console is a modernized Soviet-era radiogram that we bought on a classifieds website. We cut the radiogram into two and added the missing
piece made of modern materials. Electric leads were threaded through the radiogram’s leg, and the music control unit was hidden inside the radiogram.

One of the focal points of the room is a light fixture suspended over the communal table. It is lifted to the ceiling during big parties, while the table is
wheeled away to the glass wall. The shape of the light fixture is quite complex by no accident: it contains a special Protagonist phrase – 'this city
needs a leading character', represented by a sound wave that was superimposed onto the oval shape by the project team.

Metal frame in the lavatories was designed in the style of an organizer - to orderly hold and conceal all the necessary accessories. In tune with the
general theme of the space, the interior of the lavatories features a peeling tile design.

The facade is simple and unpretentious. In tune with the interior, dark foundation is finished with aluminum composite panels. By the main
entrance, we created an open terrace that is also a long seating place that attracts street traffic.



















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