Visionary design ignites city vibe after quakes

Hoyts EntX cinema and dining complex wins fans in central Christchurch.

The EntX cinema and dining complex is reinvigorating central Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes of 2010-11. Located on Colombo Street just across from the central bus exchange, it’s an easy destination to reach without a car, and it also appeals to office workers.

More than 160,000 people visited in the first three weeks since the complex opened in October, says developer Mark Weaver of Calder Stewart, and feedback from local retailers is that their sales have increased noticeably over that time.
“I guess we wanted to create something a bit out of the ordinary to provide a visitor attraction in the central city,” says Weaver. “We wanted more than just another food court and the direction to the architects was clear: We wanted to make a marketplace-style space on the ground floor, with hustle and bustle and activities and a lot of things going on, and we wanted a statement piece externally and internally.”

Weaver says the complex reflects Canterbury and Christchurch. “We’d been places overseas where we liked the vibe. But we definitely wanted EntX to have its own character.”

The project was also remarkable for the collaboration and shared vision among the developers, architects, builders, and regulators. “It was a two-year build programme from start of design to completion – that was a ridiculous timeline and they pulled it off really well,” says project architect Jamie Irvine, of Ignite, the firm behind other impressive commercial developments throughout New Zealand such as Auckland’s iconic Chancery precinct and the brand-new Queenstown Central.
Externally, the building’s vertical cladding panels and earthy colours reflect the patchwork landscape of the Canterbury Plains.

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Inside is dramatic. At one end, a triple-height atrium soars 15m, drawing your eye upward to amazing petal chandeliers. Irvine likens it to an open glade in a forest.

Hoyts, the anchor tenant, occupies the top two levels in a state-of-the art multiplex that boasts seven screens, as well as two bars and restaurants. Ignite architect Nathan Carey worked with Hoyts on the interior fit-out for the multiplexes and front of house. The feel is very much 21st century, with self-service ticket machines and serve-yourself food and drinks machines (although you can still buy tickets the old-fashioned way if you prefer). Ignite also completed the Cleaver & Co., interior fit-out on behalf of long term client Lion, creating a smokehouse restaurant and bar with a handcrafted character and fittings carefully chosen to resonate with local diners.

The downstairs is like eating amongst a grove of fruit trees, with communal seating areas where everyone can dine together under the leafy canopy It’s a delightful mix of new and reclaimed materials, natural forms and colours, including native timbers, aged steel, areas of painted concrete, reclaimed bricks, natural plantings and feature lighting to embellish the interior textures. It’s also easy on the ears thanks to good acoustics; you can easily find somewhere to relax.

About 20 eateries, ranging from Turkish to Indian, Thai, Shanghai dumplings, craft pizzas and salads are spread out on the ground floor in a variety of spaces that are both intimate and arty.

Irvine describes the project as “an opportunity to do a commercial entertainment area that was more than ordinary; it was an opportunity to represent Christchurch.”