If a stone could tell the story of a nation, the Mookaite Jasper would be Australia’s symbol. Found only in the Western Australian desert, the gemstone comes in the colours of our landscape – fiery reds, deep yellows and browns, whites and mauves – and is used by Aboriginals as a healing stone.
Place this narrative of the hot, dusty outback with a picture of inner city Melbourne and the contrast could not be starker. Melbourne, with its tall, cool and modern buildings, seems a world away from the Kennedy Ranges of WA. Yet for K2LD Architects, dissolving this juxtaposition when redesigning a waning 66-room Brutalist hotel in Melbourne’s inner city was only natural.
Hotel owners Creative Wealth had given the design team a specific brief that would help boost the hotel’s profitability, including increasing room occupancy, raising the building’s star rating, and enhancing its business facilities. The existing building was tired, old and lacked cohesion, with its amenities, such as such as a ballet studio and basketball court, having wasted away over the years.
In response, the architects sought inspiration from the Jasper gemstone to create a coherent design that would appeal to new clientele. Each floor of the hotel is themed after one of the colours that appear on the gem, while yellow, mustard, white, brown, red and shades of pink and purple are mirrored in the suites.
The materials chosen, from the bluestone and sandstone tiles to the local timbers, are distinctly Australian – a way for the team to “evoke a feeling of being in the heart of Australia”. Elements of outback Australia were furthermore brought indoors to the public spaces, like the pre-function space that utilises lighting to elicit the feeling of standing under a starry night.
Instead of being kitschy, the results are clean and very corporate, reaching towards a new business clientele. The derelict basketball court and ballet studio have been transformed into 31 additional premium suites surrounding a billabong-inspired internal 880sqm atrium garden, complete with desert poppies and a living native wall. Public spaces are also reinvigorated with expanded business offerings and conference facilities.
However, the facelift didn’t come without its challenges, which required some innovative engineering and construction solutions from the whole project team. As the hotel is situated next to Victoria market and had limited site access, all elements for the new works had to be craned into a small opening on Level 2. Structural limitations and bowing floor slabs also meant rooms on the third floor could not be supported by columns. Instead, they were hung off the girders used to support the existing basketball roof.
Despite these roadblocks, the new design has been a success, both for the architects as well as their clients. A year on from completion and the now four and a half star, 97-room Jasper Hotel has seen occupancy rates increase by more than 25 percent. Profits have also risen by almost 18 percent, supporting the belief that good design can lead to tangible commercial benefits.
GOSFORD QUARRIES, AUSTRALIAN SANDSTONE TILES IN GANG SAWN FINISH
LOCALLY SOURCED RECYCLED TIMBER PLANKS ON THE GREEN WALL IN THE COURTYARD
BIOWOOD, RECONSTITUTED COMPOSITE TIMBER BATTENS IN THE COURTYARD
BIOWOOD, RECONSTITUTED COMPOSITE TIMBER DECKING IN THE COURTYARD
CUSTOM MADE STEEL FRAME WINDOWS TO MEETING/FUNCTION ROOMS