High St to Home: The botanical beauty of Ilex Cafe video

DAVID WALKER/Fairfax NZ

Interior design and features of the Ilex Cafe & Events, Botanic Gardens, Christchurch.

There was a simple premise to the design of Ilex Café that is located in the Visitors Centre in Christchurch's Botanical Gardens. It is simply, beauty attracts.

Architect Andrew Patterson of Patterson Associates, the architect behind the design, has a strong ethos of creating buildings that feel like they naturally 'belong'.

For Patterson, a building needed to fit into a landscape, into a place, into an environment, a time and a place, and then the people in that building will likely feel a sense of belonging there as well.

The design of the Ilex Café grew from an idea to connect people and plants.

Ilex maximises natural light and brings the outside in.
JET CAMPBELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Ilex maximises natural light and brings the outside in.

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It was the beautiful botanical environment that was attracting people, so Patterson aimed to create a building that would attract people, because it was beautiful.

The building references the old Victorian glasshouses of yesteryear with lots of glass to provide 360 degree views of the gardens.

The front facade of the building is glazed and forms a zig-zag shape. Within the glass façade there is a walk passage, the kitchen and cafe border the passageway, mirroring the same zig-zag shape as the façade.

The name ilex is a reference to the old name for the Holm Oak or Quercus ilex. In ancient Rome, these evergreen leaves were used to make a crown of honour, once held in higher regard than those made of gold.

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If you would like to create the Ilex Café design in your home, there are some key elements to incorporate:

TEXTURE

Reflecting the many patterns and textures in nature, the walls are a mix of embossed concrete with clean glass panels and plant cell motifs. The embossed patterns represent a dappled leaf shadow element and provide an illusion of shade.

The textured concrete wall of the Ilex Cafe in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens adds interest to the interior.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

The textured concrete wall of the Ilex Cafe in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens adds interest to the interior.

GLASS CEILING

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The idea of a glass ceiling is to create a light-soaked and beautiful airy space. By modifying and folding this roof form down over a steel structure, the architect has created a folded geometry of glazed walls wrapping the building like a thick membrane.

This is a play on transparency and mirrored reflection to provide views to some areas, but hide others. The glass ceilings and skylights form a varied, leafy-like canopy that sheds dappled light to the interior.

Glass ceilings and skylights allow dappled light into the interior.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Glass ceilings and skylights allow dappled light into the interior.

BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN

Floor to ceiling windows recreate the feel of a traditional glasshouse. It's warm, lush and you can almost hear the plants growing and sighing contentedly.

Lots of window space allows you to feel part of the plant nursery. The view of the gardens is ethereal and delivers a peaceful backdrop to the stresses of daily living.  Aside from providing the great view, lots of glass in a room creates the feeling of being outside. Plants can also be brought in side the space. Look for plants with architectural shapes and forms.

STORAGE

The unusual shape of the visitors centre provided challenges when it came to storage. A separate storage area to store some of the equipment, crockery and cutlery needed to feed 200 plus people was located elsewhere in the facility so as much storage as possible needed to be incorporated into the kitchen by way of wall shelves, under bench shelves, dry store shelving and chiller space.

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The servery counter needed to maximise cabinet display space whilst still providing adequate storage for crockery, related servery equipment and coffee/ drinks area.

Open shelves of thick wood reflect the theme of spaciousness.

BRIGHT WHITE

Ilex embraces the green setting in which it sits.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Ilex embraces the green setting in which it sits.

The Ilex Café uses white to enhance the ethereal and spacious feel of the area and the bright green of the plants adds the pop of colour that creates the drama and adds to the conservatory effect. You can use splashes of colour such as potted red poinsettias for an added dimension.

 - Homed

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