When One Design Office (ODO) director Samson Tiew first caught wind of a potential 1 Hotels project at Seafarers, Melbourne, he knew it was a project he wanted to be a part of. What he didn’t know was how it would carve out a new market for the emerging design firm.

Since partnering with Riverlee and 1 Hotels to bring Seafarers’ hotel-branded residences to life, ODO has signed deals with global hotel brand Marriott and the upcoming Melbourne boutique hotel Smotel, solidifying the firm’s reputation as the emerging name in hotel design.

“I met David Lee (Riverlee Development Director) for lunch one afternoon, and I had a wild guess that Riverlee was bringing a 1 Hotel into Seafarers so I asked him about it. At the time, it was a well-kept secret, so it was a surprise to both of us that a mere whim turned out to be a reality,” Tiew says.

Samson Tiew

“ODO had been collaborating with Riverlee since 2014, and we had also had an earlier chance to speak with the team behind 1 Hotels about a similar project with another developer. That project didn’t end up happening, but we did receive some valuable insights into the type of luxury, sustainable experience they were looking to create at Seafarers.”

ODO became one of nine design studios shortlisted for a Request For Proposal process. A wildcard entry in a sea of established firms with decades of experience in the hotel space, ODO used their intimate knowledge of the 1 Hotels brand DNA to produce a submission rich in non-traditional concepts.

The effort paid off, impressing a judging panel that included 1 Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht, as well as Riverlee Founder Clement Lee and Design Director Gabriel Kok.

A landmark Victorian project, ODO was engaged by Riverlee and 1 Hotels to support the delivery of 277 guest rooms at Seafarers, as well as common areas like the hotel lobby, bar, signature restaurants, swimming pool and day spa.

Tiew says ODO’s appointment to Seafarers has been an exciting springboard to new opportunities for the business — allowing them to share their design principles with a wider public audience.

“The hotel space is one that we’re always very excited about and it’s definitely a longer-term play for us. We relish the opportunity to produce public-facing pieces of work, so the scale of hotel projects and the fact that you enjoy such a broad reach with the general public is great,” he says.

“There’s a big distinction between the hotel brands we are working with and the scale of the projects, but our ethos is very similar across all of our work — we approach every project with curiosity. It’s always a process of questioning, interviewing and creating a sense of empathy so that we find the right solution for each project.”

seafarers renders

Crafting the interiors for one of the world’s fastest-growing hotel brands within Seafarers’ sparkling Fender Katsalidis-designed building, which is currently under construction, ODO is fusing sustainability with luxury, while taking inspiration from the local natural environment.

The design includes a range of 1 Hotels’ signature sustainable initiatives, from intelligent energy management systems that reduce consumption by an average of 17 per cent, to signature in-room water refill stations that are estimated to have saved 1.2 million plastic bottles in one property alone.

Repurposed materials are a common element in the 1 Hotel Melbourne design. 

“We have been able to source materials, finishes and establish a narrative that creates a sense of wellness and brings a lot of life to traditionally static environments,” Tiew says.

“We took quite a few trips to various timber yards to explore the possibilities, and we found a very appropriate partner who had collected materials from 100-year-old demolished bridges. We’re using these materials as backdrops and bedheads in the 1 Hotel Melbourne guestrooms to reinforce not only the stories of nature but the maritime history of the site as well.”

The locally-inspired interiors also include the incorporation of components from the heritage-protected Goods Shed No. 5, such as wharf timbers, roof trusses, purlins and columns into the building’s interior As the studio continues to secure new hotel projects, the key learnings taken from the landmark Seafarers design will continue to influence hotel offerings in Melbourne and beyond.

“I think sustainability is a responsibility of us as designers, and we have a toolkit of sustainable elements that we can introduce to a project. It takes effort to pitch these ideas to clients, and it takes receptiveness from the clients, but if we can win with small initiatives to begin with, there will be a general market uptake of these sustainable concepts in future,” Tiew says. 

seafarers renders

“It’s been such a joy to be part of the 1 Hotel process because we had the chance to redefine what hospitality meant and express what we believe in. A luxurious space doesn’t have to harm the environment.”

Riverlee development director David Lee says the opportunity to work with trusted project partners has led to the development of a unique and premium offering at Seafarers.

“Having worked with Samson and his team before, we knew Riverlee and ODO were aligned in our shared commitment to creating places filled with colourful stories that inspire and delight the people who use them. The selection process was highly competitive, with a multitude of leading designers putting forward their unique ideas, so it was a fantastic accomplishment to see ODO awarded the project,” he says.

“Our vision for Seafarers is to push the limits of what a mixed-use precinct can be, and the opportunity to work with a smaller design studio that is less ingrained in traditional approaches has garnered meaningful and captivating results. The thoughtful consideration of heritage, nature and sustainability has given Seafarers many bespoke, luxury attributes that will create an unparalleled experience for its community.”

Seafarers is slated for completion in 2024.


This article was written by Riverlee's Media Unit and published by Architecture & Design. All images are supplied.