In Defence Of The Hipster Aesthetic
Diplomacy and Commerce|May 2018

Our correspondent argues that they are places where both brick and worldviews are exposed

THE Starving Rooster is a trendy craft beer bar and restaurant in the middle of Minot, North Dakota, which is about as close as you can get to the middle of nowhere. Step inside though, and with its big wood tables, high ceilings, exposed masonry and industrial setting (it is housed in the former headquarters of a tractor company) it could be anywhere. Indeed, it is the kind of place you can find everywhere.

From Beijing to Bristol and Mumbai to Minsk, bars and coffee shops have taken on a similar aesthetic: tungsten-lit, warehouse-y spaces with lots of wood and brick, serving avocado on toast and kale-and-quinoa salads.

Critics deride this sort of thing as a flattening of the world, a McDonaldisation of global culture. Kyle Chayka, a Brooklyn-based writer, dubs these venues “AirSpace”: “the realm of coffee shops, bars, start-up offices, and colive/work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go”. Mr Chayka argues that the relentless spread of this particular design “limits experiences of difference” and causes “depersonalisation, in the psychiatric sense”. He worries that “left unchecked, there is a kind of nightmare version of AirSpace that could spread room by room, cafe by cafe across the world.” The apocalypse is coming, and it’s bringing artisanal coffee and overly hopped IPAs.

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