Nonda Katsalidis the Founding Partner of renowned architecture firm Fender Katsalidis, is celebrated for lighting up the Melbourne city skyline with landmark Australian buildings including the Eureka Tower and more recently Australia 108.

In this Q&A, he discusses his latest waterfront project on the north bank of Melbourne’s Yarra, Seafarers, and how it embodies a new era of luxury apartment living as Australia’s first 1 Hotel and Melbourne’s first hotel branded residence.

According to the marketing information available, designed by Riverlee in collaboration with renowned firms, including Fender Katsalidis, Oculus, Carr and One Design Office, the $550 million Seafarers project is centred on an inspired reimagining of the heritage-protected Goods Shed No.5 and will feature a limited collection of 120 branded residences and 277 guest rooms as part of Australia’s first 1 Hotel.

What was unique about Seafarers compared with other projects you’ve designed, and where did the inspiration come from?

There were two things that told me it had the makings of something special. A lot of heritage retention work has been done to the Goods Shed and the Malcolm Moore crane to make this project successful, and I’m a big fan of keeping our industrial heritage alive and commemorating these tough, interesting artefacts from Melbourne’s old wharf.

Secondly, it was the huge frontage on the Yarra. The industrial aspect is relevant in the way we integrated the sheds into the new design, but we really tried to honour the site’s location and natural history too. We designed the residential buildings to have a playful facade that appears to have ripples on the surface. They reference how the wind interacts

with the surface of the water on the nearby river, and with the landscaped area adjacent to it, it’s an interesting site.

What attracted you to the Seafarers project?

Finding great project partners and working with people you trust is critical, and I have found that in Riverlee. I very much enjoy my interaction with them and they like working with me, so over the last decade, I have looked after many of their residential projects, which is great.

Seafarers will be Melbourne’s first international hotel-branded residence. What interests you about that?

I stayed at the 1 Hotel near Central Park in New York and visited another in Brooklyn. They are really fun hotels, with grainy, gritty interiors that use lots of different materials, and that was a huge factor in getting involved in the project. I just love the idea of the hotel being incorporated into the residence. In residential buildings, there are only so many facilities you can put in, like swimming pools, gyms, theatres and perhaps some dining facilities, but you’re not going to get the service a hotel provides. In that sense, Seafarers is a rarity and I think it represents the future of luxury apartment living.

Seafarers is located on an historic site. What do you think the future of the North Bank precinct is?

Seafarers will be built on one of the last sites in the precinct, but I think the hotel will be an anchor to the whole northern shore. With a hotel comes restaurants and bars and the general public, so it will just feel more vibrant and connected.

As the design consortium notes, “this new precinct does more than revitalise the waterfront — it returns it to the community, for all Melburnians to visit and enjoy.”

Images: Supplied