Café Público is a special place. Today, the café is hosted in a venue within a vibrant cultural center devoted to disseminate and promote performing arts, culture, and music – but this wasn’t always the case. The establishment was in fact originally built during Salvador Allende’s presidency to serve as the headquarters for the third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, where conversations were held on how to overcome poverty in underdeveloped countries. The GAM building, a Latin American milestone of architectural modernity and constructivist utopia, would then be used as a cultural center in the years to come – until the military dictatorship of 1973 altered the course of the space. After the 1973 military coup, the Pinochet regime decided to close the GAM building and use it as their political headquarters. Four decades (and one overthrown dictator) later, the building was recovered to its original purpose and returned to the Chilean citizens.
You can see how an important part of Chile’s recent history is contained among the walls of the GAM building – making it a symbol of the social and political changes the country has gone through. When we started working on its relaunch, we knew our main goal was to give back its public dimension to such a historical place. Our approach was to rebrand the space around the concepts of public domain, service, and democracy – to get it back to its original purpose and update it for the future to come. This is why we developed an identity based on the font Arial, the most classic public access typography, present in every computer and available in every language, for the space. Easy to read at large and small sizes and perfect for a variety of applications, Arial is the core of the whole identity and wayfinding system. It looks towards democracy and the interdisciplinary, shape-shifting roots of Allende’s original vision. A contemporary sans serif middle finger to the dictatorship.