Ahi Restaurant - Jack McKinney Architects | ArchiPro

Ahi Restaurant

“Ben contacted me after seeing and liking some of my previous work to say he had an amazing space and wanted me to help bring his vision for it to life,” says Jack. “The space was originally slated to be an outdoor terrace and has two glazed walls and a glazed ceiling, which while providing expansive views of the surroundings, did little to impart the sense of atmosphere you would want to find in a restaurant environment.

“The functional brief was for a kitchen space, front of house area, bar space and a dining room.

“Given the inspiration for the menu and the restaurant itself, Ben asked that the scheme evoke a sense of New Zealand without being a pastiche.

Like the menu, inspiration for the material palette comes directly from the landscape—the native timbers and colours of the New Zealand bush, says Jack, adding that eight different species of native timber—including swamp kauri, river mattai and pohutukawa—were incorporated into the servery element.

“We reached out to Tom Muir of Kitchen Artefacts, who is well known for his work with native timbers and he crafted a number of the timber elements within the restaurant including the woven ceiling element, which not only looks fantastic but also allows us to use the natural light in an interesting way that builds atmosphere. As a result, the feeling in the space is entirely different during the day as it is at night.”

Jack says creating a sense of connection was also important for the functionality of the space.

“Given that it was originally an outdoor area, we wanted everyone to be able to access the great views, whether they were diners or staff washing dishes. In order to accomplish this, sightlines throughout the space were very rationally worked out.

“The same attention to connection was given to the side of the restaurant that adjoins Harbour Eats with large windows creating sightlines through into the kitchen and coolroom—they are snapshots that reveal the working core of the restaurant in a most unexpected way.

Aesthetically, too, there are subtle connections to the Kiwi vernacular.

“The exterior wall transition from Harbour Eats to the restaurant space features an arrangement of weatherboards in a chevron pattern—an embodiment of Ben’s vision for the menu; honest Kiwi ‘materials’ delivered in a new and exciting way.”

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