When it opened last month, Rydges Fortitude Valley introduced an inspired and interesting architectural design statement to the city’s RNA and Lend Lease Showgrounds precinct currently in the throes of a major $2.9 billion redevelopment.
In context with its location within the ‘Ekka’ surrounds, Rydges Fortitude Valley has added a slice of country hospitality to the heart of the city, albeit within a modern and contemporary building defined by its retro lines. Architect Ashkan Mostaghim, Director, Mostaghim & Associates said the building deisgn takes its cue from the Brutalist* architectural movement, albeit with a ‘soft’ approach.
According to Ashkan, there is growing appreciation in architectural circles for this misunderstood movement from the 1970’s. “At its core it’s about bold, simple, timeless forms. The hotel’s architecture has been based on this.
“Brutalism is often considered as visually jarring and not always designed for human scale but our ‘softer’ approach dispels this and it can especially be seen at the street level where we have employed the use of glass to blur the boundary between inside and out. Timber decking, planter boxes, stone- cladding, a finely detailed glass awning and a variety of outdoor furniture breaks down the scale of the building.”
Situated opposite the Royal International Convention Centre forecourt and alongside King Street – which is the new main street created for the precinct – the hotel’s position is key to the RNA masterplan that called for a memorable building that would be a place marker.
“Beyond the normal requirements highlighted in the brief, our clients’ wanted a hotel that was connected to the RNA and to Fortitude Valley.
“We are proud to have designed an iconic building that is not only unique to its location but also reinvents conventional design strategies for a hotel of this type. In effect, Rydges Fortitude Valley offers a unique four-star hotel experience in one of Brisbane’s newest districts,” he said.
In order to make the most of the site and physically connect the hotel to the site Mostaghim & Associates deviated away from conventional hotel design. “We did not place the porte-cochere and hotel entry on the main street. Instead, we created a cobblestoned laneway across the back of the site in which we placed the porte-cochere and main entry. Typical hotel design would be to put the porte-cochere and entry on the most prominent street but this pulls the hotel’s public areas off the street frontage and removes the human connection to it’s location. It becomes almost an island.”
Ashkan also commented that this design strategy allowed them to position the hotel lobby bar and restaurant right on the footpath along King Street with outdoor seating spilling out on the footpath as well as a standalone bar on Gregory Terrace with a large alfresco deck around the heritage listed fig tree.
“The idea that hotel facilities are exclusively for hotel guests is shifting and our design creates a neighbourhood bar, cafe and restaurant. This has activated the street edge and has helped creat a lively new precinct. The hotel adds life to the street and the street adds life to the hotel.”
Rydges Fortitude Valley has been designed to suit its long and narrow site and as such takes the form of a narrow building with rooms on either side of a central corridor.
“Our design exaggerates the linear nature of the building by breaking it up into a series of vertical planes, six-storeys high. The planes are separated by a shadow-line using black tinted glass. From Gregory Terrace and Carriage Way at the rear the plans can be read and it creates a very simple memorable form. The planes float above the glass and slender concrete column base and from the interior you can read the bottom of the planes which form the ceiling of the public areas,” he said.
Other elements like the two-storey recycled timber wall which forms the feature of the reception area are quite bold to match the scale of the architecture; the majority of the interior is not as bold as the exterior and it is with this use of restraint and subtlety that the soft form of Brutalism comes out.
The rooms, also while simple and sharing the base black and white colour scheme of the exterior, have their own style.
In terms of interior design, the hotel’s style reflects not only the industrial aesthetic that relates to the buildings of the RNA but also the gritty yet trendy suburb of Fortitude valley. The aesthetic of the public areas is luxurious with a refined industrial feel. “We have employed concrete, recycled timber and black steel but have matched it with Persian-style carpets, leather, polished timber and marble. It is these contradictions that make the design interesting,” said Ashkan.
Beyond the aesthetic Mostaghim & Associates also wanted to have a direct connection to Queensland and the RNA. In the restaurant, the menu focuses on paddock-to-plate and bringing the country to the city, much like the Ekka.
“Inspired by the country kitchen, we used grooved timber cladding for the walls, retro-inspired carpet, timber baskets and a feature wall of selected antique china plates.
“In the bar, the walls are adorned with artwork that feature covers of ‘The Queenslander’, a magazine from the 1930’s while the bookshelves contain books about Australian agriculture. The bar also features a large Ekka-inspired mural by acclaimed Australian artist, Guido Van Helten.”
In speaking about the overall feel achieved, Ashkan said his firm believes in thinking ‘outside of the box’ and this also features in the company’s material selection.
“Our use of industrial-style screens, but in gold, have created a feature screen in the porte-cochere and pool area. Coincidentally, we designed the hotel in 2013 and incorporated a number of small gold details in the design and late in 2015 design forecasters predicted ‘gold’ would be the ‘it’ colour of 2016.
“Our planning is innovative and is the future of hotel design where the porte-cochere and entry do not occupy prime position. Rather, the food and beverage components are the most prominent and they connect with and help create the neighbourhood. With our design, the spaces flow into each other and are flexible, the lobby is the lobby bar that can extend into the restaurant or vice versa. The function space can extend into the bar. The new hotel is fluid and adaptable and hotel makes a genuine connection to it’s place. The design of this hotel references it’s location on a number of levels. It is not just a token gesture of a photo of the cities icon in the lobby,” he said.