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Historic Building becomes Luxury Hotel

By Dan Stojanovich

34 | Award Magazine

Image courtesy of Niall Rutter

Project Profile: Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto

Image courtesy of Angelo Marcina

Deluxe King Room on Level 9 overlooking Flinders Lane

Behind some of the most impressive, ornate 19th century façades in Australia the InterContinental Hotel refurbishment in Melbourne's iconic Collins Street creates a fabulous new international hotel experience.


long Melbourne’s legendary Collins Street, behind one of the most impressively detailed nineteenth century facades in Australia, the new 250 room, 5 star Melbourne InterContinental Hotel at 495 Collins St has breathed new life into a genuinely classic Melbourne landmark. The hotel site is right next door to one of Melbourne’s tallest buildings, the iconic Rialto Office Tower, with an original old Melbourne laneway (for which the Melbourne CBD is so famous), separating the office tower and hotel sites. The hotel site itself actually comprises two buildings dating back to the 19th century, which are themselves separated by yet another original old laneway, which is featured as a key element of the hotel design. This laneway forms the spine of a full height central atrium running almost the whole length of the site that stretches between Collins Street and Flinders Lane (parallel to Collins Street). The hotel’s rooms and facilities are thus located on either side of that central spine. The fall from Collins Street to Flinders Lane is three normal levels, which provide the three common area levels – Flinders Lane, Lower Ground, and Collins Street. The two original buildings were constructed in 1891, when Melbourne was one of the richest cities in the world. One is the brick Romanesque-style Winfield Building designed by William Pitt which provides 6 levels above the common areas, and the other is Richard Speight Junior's Gothic-style Rialto Building, which rises for 10 levels above the common areas.


The two buildings originally housed the Melbourne wool stores and offices and were separated by a classic bluestone cobbled laneway. The contemporary design of the new hotel showcases significant historical features of the site while providing an upmarket, contemporary international hotel experience. It is a site that presents considerable challenges, not the least of which is the significant heritage conservation considerations. Balancing those heritage considerations with the need to create a stylish international 5 star hotel experience and boost the tenancy returns in an up to date functional modern building based on some of

of the building. One of the first challenges faced by Equiset, was stripping back the site, rather than simply demolishing. There were 6 main heritage overlay conditions and these were readily resolved with heritage consultants Lovell Chen. Over 250 hotel rooms as well as all the other spaces had to be stripped back. Of course, one of the challenges in such jobs was unearthing the occasional “surprise” that wasn’t always in accordance with the available documentation… so some additional design work was often required to respond to these “little challenges.” The “look and feel” of the hotel was largely

The two original buildings were constructed in 1891, when Melbourne was one of the richest cities in the world.

Melbourne’s oldest structures, was a challenge for all concerned. Work on site commenced in October 2007 with the closure of the old Le Meridien Hotel, which itself incorporated the two buildings and laneway. Some 12 months of very intensive activity followed. Equiset Constructions, project manager and builder, handled the heritage redevelopment and managed a wide diversity of construction requirements, preservation of heritage features, and respected the cultural integrity

the responsibility of Joseph Pang of Sydney, who attended to the interior design and space planning. His brief included all public spaces such as hotel atrium foyer, reception lobby, lobby bar, brasserie, executive club lounge, as well as rooms and suites. Within a heritage shell, Pang & his team had to create an ultra chic contemporary international hotel atmosphere that was at least to the standard of other InterContinental signature properties around the world, yet maintaining the uniqueness of this Melbourne Award Magazine | 35

Image courtesy of Angelo Marcina

Project Profile: Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto

Market Lane Bar on Collins Street level heritage treasure. Pang is a thirty year veteran of the hotel interior design industry, having started in Hong Kong, and now runs his Australian operations out of Sydney.

Environmental Sustainable Design

As well as creating the right impact and atmosphere, many practical and mundane issues also had to be addressed. Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) is also now an important consideration, not just with regard to provision of energy efficient hotel services, but also with regard to fittings, fabrics, finishes and furnishings.


While needing to look especially exciting and inviting, because an international hotel is like a huge complex machine that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the fit-out needs also to be durable and easy to maintain, as well as coping with wear and tear and the occasional “accident.” Pang’s brief also extended to décor and artworks, and his team worked with Artbank to develop a program that provided a changing collection of pieces that can be allocated throughout the hotel. Architects for the new development were The Buchan Group (TBG), whose key design challenges included redesigning the entries at the Collins Street and Flinders Lane to be more open and appealing, as well as making the most of the central atrium and opening up the view from the Collins Street main entry right through into Flinders Lane. The view out into Flinders Lane was made possible by

36 | Award Magazine

removing the previous visual barrier at the Flinders Lane to create a more open space, while adding a retail tenancy at that entrance. As well as the overall layout of the hotel, TBG also worked on major features such as the pool area on Level 10 and public spaces and tenancies. TBG were also responsible for the striking, three level main staircase. The old staircase was stripped back, and then a new steel framework with zinc panels was attached, creating a dramatic “blade” effect. The new hotel now also includes new state of the art dining facilities, and the large (and hitherto underutilised) old ballroom has been converted into more desirable meeting rooms. As well as generally re-assessing and redesigning the retail tenancies component of the development in order to maximize the value-add of all retail, public and operational spaces, the Buchan Group also provided tenancy fit-out guidelines to maintain the design standard of the whole development. Major items of demolition included opening up the space at the Flinders Lane entry, and at the opposite Collins Street end, further demolition work involved removing columns to open up the spanned open spaces. The budget for the job was of the order of $60m including furniture, fittings and equipment.

Heritage Considerations

One of the other major design challenges was to also open up the hotel to the Rialto Tower’s Forecourt Plaza space next door (western site boundary). Heritage consideration precluded totally covering the narrow laneway between

the two sites – it had to remain visible to the public and not be totally built over. TBG designed a series of “bridges” between the two sites at the Collins Street entry level which included licensed areas and much friendlier retail spaces, providing an active interface and facilitating flow between the two sites. Winward Structures were structural consultants, NDY were the services consultants, and the building surveyor was Philip Chun. MTD were kitchen consultants, One of the most spectacular features of the development is the special interior lighting display by DJ Coalition in the Winfield building, which creates a large moving “wave” display across a major wall. Special lighting effects, some of which are quite subtle, are a feature throughout the development and these were also provided by DJ Coalition.

Final Outcome

The new InterContinental is a very stylish addition in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, a city which is renowned around the world for its liveliness, fashion and flair. The InterContinental Group wanted a suitable presences in this world city that did justice to the InterContinental brand. This new hotel is quintessential Melbourne – ultra chic contemporary style with a respect for the best of the past. It is fitting addition to the list of the world's better luxury hotels, and a complement to some of InterContinental’s finest, such as the InterContinental Paris Le Grand and InterContinental The Willard Washington DC. A

Project Directory | Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto D&C CONTRACTOR


Equiset Construction, part of the Grollo Group, was the project manager and builder on the redevelopment. Equiset handled the heritage redevelopment with perfection and managed a wide diversity of construction requirements and preservation of heritage features, while respecting the cultural integrity of the building. Contact: Ian Skinner 525 Collins Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 P: 03 9620 5999 F: 03 9620 5977

Architect • The Buchan Group 133 Rosslyn Street West Melbourne, VIC 3003 Carpentry Subcontractor • Sandringham Construction Unit 10, 640-680 Geelong Road Brooklyn, VIC 3012 Carpets • Omnifloor 83 Moreland Street Footscray, VIC 3011 Heritage Architect • Lovell Chen 35 Little Bourke Street Melbourne, VIC 3000

Interior Architect • Joseph Pang Design Consultants Suite 3/3 Grosvenor Street Neutral Bay, NSW 2089 Metal Works Subcontractor • Materials Fabrication 18 Victoria Avenue Canterbury, VIC 3081 Painting Subcontractor • Prolac 9 Eastlink Drink Hallum, VIC 3803 Partitions/Ceilings Subcontractor • City Ceilings 1/12 Seismic Court Rowville, VIC 3178

Project MAnager • Gallagher Jeffs Consulting Level 13, 45 William Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Structural Engineer • Winward Structures 488 La Trobe Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Vinyl Wallcovering • Decorrol Contact: Peter Rankin 5 McLean Avenue Bentleigh, VIC 3204 P: 03 9557 7328 F: 03 9557 7286

Award Magazine | 37

Project Profile: Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto  

Award Magazine Project Profile By Dan Stojanovich

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