Plants and brutalist concrete blocks by Iranian architect Neda Mirani for a contemporary café

Ivy Café was designed by Iranian architect Neda Mirani who used brutalist techniques and locally sourced materials, to create this grey concrete and black metal interior design.

Ivy Café, by Neda Mirani, is located in Tonekabon in Northern Iran. This project entailed a complete renovation of the street-facing space, that was originally a shop, to transform it into a modern café.

Why Ivy Café? To remodel an existing shop, using local materials, for a contemporary aesthetic that stands out from the competition

The main goal for the architect on this project was to use materials that could be found in abundance in the local area, that were at a reasonable price point, and that could be installed in such a way to form zones in a module style.

Ivy Café is located in Tonekabon in Northern Iran

The minds behind Ivy Café – Neda Mirani from mrk office

Neda Mirani is one of the Design Managers at the mrk office of architecture and design in Iran. Directly after finishing her studies at the Guilan University, Mirani joined the mrk office.

She has worked on a series of residential properties alongside the team at the mrk office, but the Ivy Café is one of her new projects that branches out into the world of retail architectural design. Neda Mirani’s residential designs are typically a combination of industrial styles and contemporary aesthetics which she has brought with her to the design of Ivy Café.

Materials & Techniques – Concrete blocks and modular stacking

Neda Mirani wanted to create a design that mainly focused on one material and this needed to be a material that was abundant in the local area, was at a low price point, and was able to be stacked like modules

In the surrounding Mazandaran region, there are many workshops and factories that could provide cement blocks at a low cost and in limitless supply. This material choice not only ticked those boxes, but the texture, colour and versatility of the concrete blocks offered a chance to remove the multiplicity of materials from the project and focus on one material to create diverse functions.

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Concrete blocks allowed the architect to play with texture, color and versatility

These concrete blocks were used throughout the whole interior design from the walls through to benches and recessed shelves. The blocks were installed vertically for a smoother finish, and stacked horizontally for additional texture and to highlight different zones within the café.

To accentuate the brutalist aesthetic of the concrete blocks, Neda Mirani chose black metal furniture and staircase along with rectangular shaped metal beams that protruded from the ceiling. The juxtaposition of the concrete and black metal details creates a contemporary and clean interior design.

The vertical blocks have a more smooth finish rather than the horizontal ones for a more clean design

Style & Aesthetics – Ivy to soften brutalism

The façade of Ivy Café at street level encompasses everything that is to be expected upon entering this contemporary café. The materials that have been used internally are used externally to give guests a glimpse of the internal atmosphere. The colour palette, the green ivy, and the concrete stacked blocks surround a large black metal entrance door and frameless glass windows, all offering a taste of what to expect inside. 

Soft yellow LED lights are used for the logo on the external face of the café as well as for the lighting inside which bounces off the rough texture of the concrete blocks. They are also used to illuminate wall murals that have been commissioned especially for the café, which include the ivy logo of the café and the rectangle holes in the concrete blocks.

The cold, rough texture of the grey concrete blocks and the black metal furnishings was offset by the inclusion of lush green hanging plants scattered at various levels throughout Ivy Café. By including hanging plants, the designer not only added a colourful aspect to the interior but also greatly contributed to the vitality of the space.

The façade reflects the interiors surmounted by the yellow LED logo

The irresistible inspiration of nature

The hanging plants chosen for this project are called “miniature ivy” which thrives in indoor spaces. The complement that the miniature ivy gave to the interior inspired the name for the coffeehouse, Ivy Café.

Locals were also involved in the creations of the wall murals

Design Memento – Locally sourced materials

A beautiful aspect of this project is how the architect sourced local materials from local companies for the interior design.

It’s important in modern society that local resources are implied more frequently in interior design projects as places like cafes are typically created for the use of local residents.

The brutality of the concrete is interrupted by the presence of the ivy that came out of the blocks

The writer’s comment – Strategic placement

I’m especially drawn to this project due to the way that Neda Mirani strategically placed each concrete block either horizontally or vertically to achieve the desired purpose. Horizontally for seating or for the base of recessed shelves, the base of the checkout counter, or to add texture to the wall. Vertically to create the back of recessed shelves, and to create spaces for wall art.

The hanging ivy was then strategically placed throughout the café to soften the harsh angles of the concrete blocks, which breaks up the otherwise monotone and cold interior. I think that it’s very fitting that the café was then named Ivy Café after the role that the ivy plays within this design.

Concrete is one versatile material that architects can use in impressively creative manners, check the Dicentra Flower Shop crated by Rina Lovko Studio.

The innovative use of the concrete blocks juxtaposed with the metal of the furniture create the perfect industrial style interiors
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