CBG Architects have beaten out five other practices for the design of JAC Group’s $50-million Launceston hotel.

The Gorge Hotel Design Competition was launched as an attempt to deliver an “icon for Launceston”, capable of responding to the significance of the site; a site which JAC Group founder, Josef Chromy, believes to be the last significant site for development along Launceston’s riverfront.

The standout feature of the winning design is its woven façade of tessellated glass, which is intended to recall the cliffs and waterfalls of nearby Cataract Gorge. The building’s highest panels are positioned to reflect the sky and filter light down the edges of the exterior, making it look as if water is running down the sides of the building during daylight hours.

Inside, the cliffs of Cataract Gorge are further referenced with a 12-metre “cliff feature wall”. The podium level is finished in textured and natural materials such as rock-patterned pre-cast concrete, while a rugged zig-zag pattern staircase connects levels of the interior. This landscape focus is completed with views out to Cataract Gorge and the Tamar River to the north west, and city and mountain views to the south east.

Although JAC Group commended the top three prize winners in the competition – Tasmanian firms S Group and Terroir – Chromy says that CBG’s design was ultimately chosen for its ‘philosophical’ response to the site, as manifested in the myriad references to local topography. Of the three finalists, CBG’s had the highest construction cost and cost per square metre of development, but was still within budget for the project.

“The use of prefabricated modular glazing for the glass tower and rock patterned precast concrete for structural walls at the podium level and spine represent an efficient approach to innovation that is also aesthetically pleasing,” reads a statement from the competition jury.

“[CBG’s] is not a design that seeks to blend in and disappear, but if that were the criteria, the Sydney Opera House would never have been built.”

The runner-up design by S Group proposed twin glass pyramids that sat either side of an outdoor staircase that was intended to represent the natural features of Cataract Gorge.

The third finalist, Terroir, submitted designs for a glass and aluminium building that culminated in a sharp prow, which would have jutted out like a ship over the northern Paterson Street frontage.

It is anticipated that CBG’s winning design for Gorge Hotel will achieve a 4.5 to 5-star hotel rating, and comprise 130 rooms plus penthouses. Construction is expected to be complete by 2020.