Raising the Bar

While the majority of our work is residential (in all its manifestations) we’ve also had our share of designing bars, cafes and restaurants. In recent years Lone Star, Chow and Wholly Bagel (Thorndon New World ) have come across our drawing boards.

In those jobs we attended mostly to the boring bits such as the layout, the location of the grease trap and the preparation of the Fire Report. In other words, all those matters requiring Building Consent rather than creative input. However recently, the owner of the newly opened Ivy Bar, in the basement of the James Smith Building, went beyond our usual brief and entrusted us to assist with the décor.

This was a truly exciting experience which added further to our design knowledge and skills.

I’m not a stranger to eating out, and have also be known to enjoy a small tipple at some of Wellington’s finest establishments.  And while I might be challenged in the area of food preparation, I have settled comfortably into a holistic view that a hospitality experience is enhanced by social, architectural and aural considerations, as well as the quality of what is on the plate.

The Ivy bar is certainly atmospheric .The owner wanted it to look instantly ‘old’, and be acoustically lively. The landlord provided his collection of pressed metal ceiling tiles, which have been recycled as wall cladding. The seismically reassuring heavy concrete columns and beams were bashed up, their visual weight contrasting with gossamer curtains and drapes. The bottles are back lit so that colours can supplements the labels. The bar top is an metaphorical aircraft carrier of alcohol.

Visitors ask the bar staff ‘ what was this bar before it became Ivy?’ The answer is that it was actually a basement carpark serving the needs of sleeping cars rather than the needs of live people.

We are delighted that it was finished in time for the passing of the Marriage Equality Bill. Not only did it provide some celebrations, but this architect thinks it would be a great place for a wedding reception.

Thanks to Jason Mann for the photographs