Story by Trends Publishing
Photography by Mark Mawson
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With its glazed podium, signature restaurant and bars, the refurbished Hilton Sydney not only has loads of street appeal, it also enjoys a strong connection with the inner city
In the 1970s, many city hotels were designed with a fortress-like mentality. Solid, bland podiums fronted the street, as the hotels turned in on themselves. And while this created a private haven for guests, it did nothing to help such hotels interact with the city or capture the attention of passers-by.
The five-star Hilton Sydney was a typical example. Architect Paul van Ratingen of Johnson Pilton Walker, the company that won the commission to re-design the hotel, says the existing podium building was like a shoe box.
"On George Street, it presented blank, inactive and impenetrable street frontages, which gave no hint of what was happening inside," he says. "Not surprisingly, there was no natural light in the lobby, the internal arrangement was complex and disorientating; and there was no visual reference to its location within the bustle of Sydney's CBD. The entire front of house may well have been entombed in the basement."
On Pitt Street, degraded entrances to the hotel and commercial offices were set back behind a maze of vehicle ramps that created a dark void across the entire street frontage.
Van Ratingen says the team saw at the very beginning that there was a tremendous potential to completely transform the existing building into an exciting major new development, reconnected to the city with a sequence of clear, concise and dramatic spaces.
"We had a very strong belief in the site," he says. "It's a core civic area with a wonderful stock of old sandstone, heritage buildings, including the historic Queen Victoria Building (QVB) opposite.
"The existing iconic and elegantly proportioned Hilton tower was sympathetically reclad and a new glazed mid-tower office extension provided on Pitt Street – its simple, slab-block construction is a rational form that works well."
Van Ratingen says the key design concept for the remodelling was the need to reconnect the building and hotel functions with the city. Opening up the hotel to the streets on both sides, and introducing plenty of natural light was fundamental.
To achieve this, the existing podium was partially demolished – leaving the existing tower floating 20m clear above the ground level. This created a sequence of grand and dramatic sun-filled public spaces.
"We reinstated the notion of the original Italianate Royal Arcade as a new lane linking Pitt Street through to George Street, incorporating an external hotel drop-off in the heart of the site," says Ratingen. "This brings plenty of natural light into the building. We also created a vertical garden on a wall along one side of the lane."
The new hotel arrangement is very simple; restaurants an bars overlook George street, and the large ballroom and extensive new convention facilities, which can accommodate up to 3000 delegates, overlook Pitt street. Circulation occurs between, within the light and airy lobby.
The podium accommodates Glass, a new signature restaurant, and the new Zeta bar, both designed by celebrated New York restaurant designer Tony Chi.
"We purposefully articulated the George Street building away from the tower so it would have its own identity," says Ratingen. "The restaurant and bar needed to be seen as destinations in their own right."
The glass walls of the podium flood the interior with natural light and provide spectacular views over the historic QVB – a building that influenced the new materials for the hotel. Oval sandstone columns on the podium reinforce a strong visual link between the two landmarks.
The glass facades also create a transparency that brings the hotel to life, says Ratingen.
"Both the activity in the street and that generated within the hotel animate the building and provide the sense of connection that was previously missing. Inside the lobby, cantilevered floors, bridges, stairs and escalators enliven the space, exposing interesting vistas and creating opportunities for people watching."
While a sense of grandeur defines the lobby, it has also been designed to impart an intimacy. Interior designer Joseph Pang says the decor needed to complement the very clean architectural lines of the space, but it also had to acknowledge the hotel's iconic status.
"It was important that the decor fitted with the overall concept of glamour, but we didn't want the interior to be too intimidating," he says. "There had to be a balance, so that people wouldn't feel overwhelmed by the space.
"This was achieved by creating little pockets of seating. We capitalised on the columns, using these to break up the space into small segments. Sculptural furniture and bright splashes of colour also add to the sense of drama. We deliberately avoided using too many competing elements, and kept a lot of the surfaces light and simple to express the natural beauty of the materials."
The new restaurant also provides a sense of theatre. At 660m2, the 234-seat Glass lives up to its name, with the expansive areas of glass giving a feeling of space and providing a window onto some of Sydney's classic downtown architecture.
"It provides a true reflection of Sydney – both literally and figuratively – in both its style and ambience," says designer Tony Chi.
"By night, with the dramatically lit QVB as a partial backdrop, the lighting is a gentle glow, with the glitter and drama of the restaurant and the city itself creating a sophisticated look," says Chi.
In keeping with the transparency evident elsewhere in the hotel, the kitchen and chefs are on display at all times.
Other new facilities at the Hilton include a large spa, with a 25m-long pool and gymnasium. The leased office facilities and all 577 guest rooms have also been completely refurbished.
The design emphasis in the luxury Relaxation guest rooms is on relaxation and indulgence. Neutral colour palettes, leather furniture, wood floors and state-of-the-art bathroom facilities reinforce the luxury evident elsewhere in the hotel.
First published date: 12 April 2006
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|Location||Hilton Sydney and Capital Centre (Sydney, NSW)|
|Walker; director||Paul van Ratingen, RAIA|
|Interior designer (front of house)||Chhada Siembieda|
|Australia; principal project designer||Joseph Pang (now with Joseph Pang Design|
|Consultants); team members||James Lee, Janice Beard, Anna Maria, Margo Warre, Allison|
|Green; project administrator||Michael Watson|
|Interior designer (restaurant and bar)||Tony Chi &|
|Paley; senior associate and lighting principal||David|
|Singer; project manager||Jefferson|
|Lam; project management||Stewart Robertson, Barstudio Architect Living Well Health|
|Club||Brewster Hjorth Architects|
|Heritage architect||Brian McDonald & Associates/Noel Bell Ridley Smith|
|Landscape architect||Johnson Pilton Walker|
|Signage consultant||EKH Design|
|Main contractor||Leighton Contractors|
|Quantity surveyor||Page Kirkland Partnership|
|Project manager||Page Kirkland Management|
|Structural engineer||Connell Mott MacDonald|
|Facade engineer||Hyder Consulting|
|Mechanical engineer||Bassett Consulting|
|Electrical/lift/security engineer||Norman Disney & Young|
|Hydraulic/fire engineer||LHO Group|
|Fire engineer||Arup Fire|
|Traffic engineer||Colston Budd Hunt & Kates|
|Acoustic engineer||Acoustic Logic Certifier/BC|
|A consultant||Phillip Chun & Associates|
|Food and beverage consultant||MTD Group|
|Specialist lighting engineer||Webb Australia Group|
|Audiovisual engineer||Vision Design Studio|
|Tower facade||Fibre cement sheet painted; glass curtain wall by JML Group/LCPL|
|Podium facade||Glass facades by JML Group/LCPL; sandstone by Exclusive Stone/Bondi Stone|
|Restaurant and bar fit-out contractor||RSF Commercial Interiors|
|Internal glazing||Aussie Glass|
|Paving and tiling||Austral Verde granite/Loretto limestone/Exclusive Stone|
|Escalators and lifts||Otis|
|Plasterboard linings||Southern Star|
|Fire services||Premier Fire Services|
|Electrical/lighting||John Goss Projects|
|Heating/air conditioning||Hastie Australia|
|Hydraulic services||Nisbet & Durney|
|Swimming pool and spa||Nisbet & Durney|
|Carpet in public areas||Brinton|
|Area rugs||Designer Rugs|
|Stone supplier (public areas)||Exclusive Stone, Quarella|
|Sculptor (reception)||Bronwyn Oliver|
|Artist (restaurant)||Judith White|
|Guest room joinery||Interior Joinery & Furniture|
|Guest room lighting||Euroluce; JSB Lighting|
|Bathroom fittings||Caroma; Meco|
|Bath||Bright Water Bathware|
|Leather supplier||Contemporary Leathers|