The restoration of the iconic InterContinental Sydney hotel is underway with the design vision looking to establish a contemporary architectural expression of the building’s heritage character.

Leading the design of the restoration project are award-winning architects Tracey Wiles and Ian Lomas from Woods Bagot, who are pioneering new thinking to connect contemporary architecture with the area’s history.

Set within the beautifully restored Treasury Building of 1851, InterContinental Sydney is a heritage delight featuring a rich tapestry of Georgian elevations, neo-classical architecture and 19th century fittings. However, the history of the site goes back much further to the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation, who are the traditional custodians of Cadi, the land where the hotel stands today.

Following the arrival of the British in 1788, this land became the site of the first colonial vineyard. A few decades later, in 1851, the grand Treasury Building was constructed under the auspices of colonial architect Mortimer William Lewis. A separate fireproofed ‘Strong Room’ building (now The Treasury Room) was added in 1896, and connected in 1901 to the original building by a bridging structure and a grand staircase.

Between 1916 and 1919, an Edwardian Baroque-style domed extension was planned to extend along Bridge and Phillip Streets and enclose the building around a beautiful courtyard. Only the original Bridge Street extension was completed, with the courtyard enclosed over 60 years later with the construction of the hotel, forming The Cortile. The estate was finally abandoned in 1967.

The InterContinental Sydney opened its doors in 1985 after much of the original heritage building was restored with luxurious comforts and contemporary guest spaces to fit its description as a new luxury travel destination.

Heritage attractions of the hotel include the lobby lounge, The Cortile, with a bar added to pay homage to the site on which the nation’s first grape vine was planted in 1788; New South Wales’ first vault, which remains on site in its original format, hidden deep underground; the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest operating lift, complete with original fixtures and vintage carpeting; and the Premier’s Room, which used to be the office of the Premier of New South Wales since 1900, but is now a rustic event space.

 Architects Wiles and Lomas' design scheme retains a memory of the once-open, external space through the textured, chevron patterned stone floor with a strong injection of botany, all centred around the elegant new bar. Referencing the Cortile’s history of being a courtyard space, the design brings the outside in, with layering of levels and large scale biophilia for a contemporary dining experience, the architects explained. 

“We’ve taken great care in preserving the architectural lineage of the collective buildings that form the hotel. The new overlay is fully integrated and exciting – centred around a lush, relaxed and naturally lit cortile bar that fuses the heritage of the hotel with a contemporary, easy-going Australian hospitality setting,” Wiles said.  

“Combined with room refurbishment, new restaurant and rooftop bar, the new Intercontinental Sydney will once again be an iconic destination for guests and locals alike,” she added.