Botanist by Alberto Caiola draws on the menu of innovative plant-based cocktails for interiors to engage the senses. Located at the leafy heart of Asia’s most sci-fi city – Shanghai’s former French concession – a combination of natural and synthetic elements evoke a futuristic realm where technology meets sustainability to harness the power of plants.

Seasonal herbs, spices, flowers, fruits and vegetables are being given centre stage in the cocktail preparation as the base for healthful and colourful drinks, giving a tasty response to growing interest in healthy and natural lifestyles.


Stepping into the space the patron is presented with a floor-to-ceiling living wall of aromatic plants that at once plays to the guests’ sense of smell, as well as evoking memory and emotion. At the heart of Botanist’s craft is infusion all of which happens on-site and in full view thanks to Jars positioned behind the bar. Beautifully backlit to capture the natural beauty of herbs and spices suspended in liquid, they make for a captivating focal point.


Starting to explore this tension between contrasting elements, a wall installation features plants and polycarbonate sheets. Depending on viewers’ angle, the vegetation appears either abstract and blurred, or focused and sharp. To maximise the contrast, angular and synthetic components feature throughout the space. Most dramatic of all is an immersive drop ceiling, a complex floating maze inspired by chemical structures. The irregular yet geometric frames evoke a synthetic forest of hi-tech connotations where dark metal structures, strip lights, reflective panels and meshes come together to create semi futuristic aesthetics.


The sculptural installation wraps around the entirety of the space, morphing into tables along one side of the bar, and shelving on the other housing infusion jars and bottles. Dark mirrors create an illusion of depth into which walls ‘disappear.’ Sofas and poufs feature a deep blue colour to add vibrancy while assorted lighting spanning varied sources and tones lend a dramatic glow to specific areas. The most prominent of these is a cluster of strip lights along the ceiling maze diffusing light subtly from above.


Another dominant source is concealed behind the polycarbonate wall installation. A polished metal counter and tabletops reflect light throughout the space to create a sense of speed and dynamism. To create intimacy, distinct seating areas were created through the addition of permeable metal meshes and light strips. The partitions lend a degree of privacy, without compromising openness.


In keeping with Botanist’s design goal of drawing patrons into both concept and space, its key themes are made visible from the street outside. Screens of meshed metal spanning the venue’s façade partially reveal its interior to create a sense of intrigue and prompt curiosity. Meanwhile, an entrance flanked by neon strips guide guests inside the space.

Finally, a black wooden deck transforms an outdoor patio into a dynamic landscape, with inviting yet futuristic reflective sofas and poufs for guests to take full advantage of Shanghai’s warmer evenings.

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all images courtesy of Dirk Weiblen