The original flagship of marzipan confectionery Niederegger has been sensitively modernised by JOI-Design so that this much-loved treasure may evoke delight in the young and old for centuries to come.
Since 1806, seven generations of the Niederegger family have been tantalising sweet tooths around the world from their shop and cafe in the heart of Lübeck, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Germany. In January 2013, the doors were shut for the first time in its history so that the interior architects could restore this cherished landmark.
JOI-Design’s vision for the restoration was that the time-honoured values of this legendary icon would be sympathetically balanced with 21st century modern efficiencies.
The result is an elegant design of a 350m2 boutique confectionery and a 350m2 cafe whose classic style will evoke the magical memories of childhood sprees to the sweetshop and paint vibrant images for those who are discovering it for the first time. To help preserve this sense of timeless simplicity, natural and sustainable materials such as responsibly-sourced teakwood, solid brass and energy-saving LED lighting have been thoughtfully integrated into the spaces.
The thread which links the entire design concept was inspired by the very first marzipan treats concocted by Niederegger. This loaf made from a creamy almond paste enrobed in rich chocolate and enclosed in a glistening ruby and gold wrapper – this was the source of the new decor’s colour palette. Red and almond tones can be found in the custom velvet and leather upholsteries, with the colour of bittersweet chocolate recalled in smoked oak parquet flooring and woven carpets of the dining areas.
From the moment of entry into the ground floor retail space, a gilded brass ribbon inset with LED light strips into the honey-toned granite floor, leads guests around the shop to each display of delicacies and then up the stairs to the cafe on the first level. This stripe is mirrored overhead in a recessed ceiling cove lit with rosy LEDs, casting a warm glow while evoking the scarlet bands of the traditional livery.
Throughout the space, bold splashes of red help draw out the excited passion felt by loyal fans of the Niederegger brand.
Nostalgic references in modern forms continue throughout the design. Since historically almonds were classified as a medicinal remedy sold only by pharmacists, the interiors also subtly allude to this bygone era. Floor-to-ceiling timber shelves are teeming with various vessels and glass apothecary jars, including 1500 different titbits with handwritten slate price tags.
Original plaster marzipan moulds from the Niederegger archives have been inset into a cherry-toned, back-painted glass accent wall, and a handmade brass ingot cast in the shape of a piece of marzipan becomes the meticulously detailed button for calling the lift. Inside, the timber panelling has been embossed with the Niederegger lettering traditionally impressed into the bottom of marzipan loaves.
The ground-level lounge is an ancestral gallery dedicated to the seven generations of Niedereggers who have devoted their lives to attracting marzipan aficionados from around the world. Paintings of the founder, Johann Georg Niederegger, and the sons to whom the business has been handed down successively over the years, had previously been scattered throughout the shop. Now brought together as a collection, the portraits are flush-mounted with indirect back lighting on a deep crimson coloured wall as a dramatic homage to the family’s legacy.
An elegant white Murano glass chandelier with black linen shades elevates the ambiance of the lounge, and contemporary chairs upholstered in a bespoke candy-stripe fabric are a nod to the packaging of the classic Niederegger chocolates.
Tucked away behind a frosted glass divider and the glossy red accent wall, is the kitchen where all these gastronomic delicacies come to life. Extending from here is a 10m counter clad in teakwood and topped with Nero Assoluto granite slabs where elaborately swirled tortes and bits of confectionary artistry tempt the taste buds as guests enter the shop. Behind the refrigerated vitrines is a wall clad with classically styled porcelain kitchen tiles crafted especially for the restoration.
Their patterns were originally designed by the artist Alfred Mahlau, who in the 1920s was commissioned to create the corporate identity and logo for Niederegger’s shop and cafe in Lübeck. Five different black and white silhouettes illustrate historical icons of the city: for example the Holstentor – the city gate; a koggen – a medieval merchant ship; and the Lübecker Rathaustreppe, or the stairway leading to the town hall.
These same motifs can be found with the inlaid timber accents in the teakwood cabinetry and the laser cut-outs of the red silk lampshades found throughout the shop.
JOI-Design has also woven technology into Niederegger’s 21st century persona. An automated electronic game challenges visitors to answer four questions (out of 100 possibilities) in order to win a marzipan loaf. And an interactive digital screen set within a traditional teakwood cabinet enables guests to find out more about Niederegger by, for example, visiting its website and posting on its Facebook page, sharing their childhood memories, and discovering recipes for cooking with marzipan.
The upper storey houses a cafe where Niederegger serves a variety of delicacies which differ from season to season. Therefore, JOI-Design has skilfully created display cases with the flexibility to accommodate a range of refrigeration and storage options required by this ever-changing assortment of treats.
In the cafe, the inscription impressed into the marzipan loaves has again been adopted, this time screen-printed in white onto glass partitions to help create a sense of intimacy when diners are seated.
Antique culinary utensils from Niederegger’s archives have been framed as artwork, and as on the ground floor, gleaming red glass accent walls have been inset with historic marzipan moulds, all of which forms an exhibit explaining the age-old production methods of the confection. Mixed with modern touches such as the Murano glass chandelier, these family treasures help shape the cosy and welcoming atmosphere of the Niederegger Café.
Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk, co-managing director of JOI-Design, comments: “We are very proud to have won the design competition for such a unique project in our region. Both Lübeck and Hamburg, where JOI-Design is based, are Hanseatic cities, so we not only understood the cultural inheritance of the location, we could also draw upon our grandparents’ stories about their childhood adventures to the Niederegger Café.
“With our fortunate vantage point, we could absorb the spirit and heritage of the brand, and return something truly special that we hope will inspire magical dreams for generations to come!”