Last year, Malaysian development giant SP Setia acquired the site of 308 Exhibition Street in Melbourne for a $640-million twin-tower high-rise project overlooking Carlton Gardens. The project was (and is) to be a collaboration between Australian architecture firms COX Architecture and Fender Katsalidis Architecture (FKA).

This week, it was announced that luxury hotel chain Shangri-La has won approval for the twin-tower project, comprising a 64-storey hotel alongside a high-rise residential complex. Designs reveal that the two towers will be linked by a walkway that spans the 50th floors of the respective buildings.


Dubbed the Sapphire Gardens project, the development is set to include a total of 520 hotel rooms, 500 apartments, and a 548-square-metre ballroom with views over the heritage gardens.

“One end of the ballroom is glass; it has a balcony and a stunning view,” FKA’s Karl Fender told the Herald Sun. “This will have to be the place to go when you come to Melbourne.”

Shangri-La Asia’s chief executive, Lim Beng Chee, says the project will be “an architectural masterpiece and an iconic part of Melbourne’s skyline for decades to come”.

As with the majority of Shangri-La’s projects worldwide, the site at 308 Exhibition Street will feature a sky lobby, called the Sky Lounge and Horizon Club. In total, the towers will sit over a site area of 4,140 square metres.

Sapphire Towers will be Shangri-La’s fifth Australian project, joining its existing portfolio of hotels in Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney. Construction on the COX- and FKA-designed towers is due to begin this year, with an estimated completion date of 2022.