- Published on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 11:41
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The InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto has recently undergone a $60 million resurrection project.
Erected in 1890-91, The Rialto building is one of the best and last remaining examples of 19th century gothic architecture in Victoria, harking back to a time when Melbourne was the richest city in the world. The recent resurrection project has rejuvenated and transformed one the grandest heritage buildings in Melbourne into a world-class international hotel.
The opening of The Rialto as an InterContinental property marks the establishment of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in Melbourne and adds The Rialto to an exclusive global collection of heritage listed InterContinental hotels and resorts.
In resurrecting the building, Joseph Pang and his team from Joseph Pang Design Studio, married the historical aspects of the property as an architectural icon with a contemporary design. To begin, the designers took a creative and innovative approach to addressing the challenge of the design elements that contributed mostly to a dark and foreboding atmosphere that was either part of the building’s superstructure or otherwise heritage-listed, heightening the challenge of lifting the overall aesthetic.
They began by taking inspiration from the building’s foundations and materials, such as bluestone and the still-existing cobblestoned tram track passages running between and alongside the Winfield and Rialto wings. Traces of these original construction materials and styles were conserved and can be observed throughout the revitalised building through contemporary interpretation. An example of this is seen where the guests enter the hotel from Collins St and the flooring morphs from polished bluestone into white marble as they enter the reception area, creating a link between old Melbourne and today.
The building itself is essentially two wings; originally called The Rialto and Winfield buildings. A glass dome, creating a nine-storey well with a restaurant and bar at its base, links these two buildings. Being restricted in what could be done to allow more natural light to enter, Joseph Pang and his team used light and colour to bring life to the space. The chosen colour palette – inspired by the original construction materials and styles – is largely rich, dark tones, punctuated with carefully chosen splashes of warm hues. Throughout the hotel, particularly in the Rialto Bluestone bar where browns and umbers alongside bright oranges and reds, add vibrancy to what were before uninspiring and foreboding spaces.
Other design elements include the 50m wall mosaic that spans the entire length of the hotel alongside Alluvial Restaurant. A classic damask pattern with a modern slant, the mosaic is made up of more than 342,000 Bisazza glass tiles imported from Italy.
The innovative use of light and colour are never more prominent than at night, when LED lighting at the base of each balcony column of the Winfield wing lights up the central well. The new lighting concept transforms what is an otherwise repetitive and characterless facade, creating movement and colour with each change altering the hotel’s public spaces. From the atrium to the new rear entrance onto Flinders Lane, the building has been given a new breath of life through the use of light and colour.
Other areas of the hotel have been converted for unconventional uses that both enhance the guest experience and facilitate the smooth running of the hotel. One example is the rooftop kitchen garden, a small, green space dedicated to herbs, fruits and other edible plants used in the kitchen of the hotel. The design team also accentuated The Rialto’s symmetry through the use of exposed timbers and steel to contrast the ornate wrought iron balustrades and brick facades.
In the guest rooms, all new Bose entertainment products from the radios through to iPod docking stations and Philips televisions were installed, creating a contrast with a new state-of-the-art environment within The Riato’s 19th century façade. A well-known bedding manufacturer was commissioned to create mattresses especially for InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, with an emphasis on exceptional comfort and quality. During renovation on the guest rooms, baths were replaced with showers and AAA-rated showerheads installed to cut back on water usage and save on energy that would otherwise have been used for heating water. For the suites where baths were kept, the design team commissioned new tubs with sloping sides to reduce the amount of water required to fill.
Everything used in the revitalisation of The Rialto – from construction materials through to guest bathroom amenities – was selected through an InterContinental brand criteria of premium quality. Products and materials were sourced from around the world to ensure the hotel itself, and the services and facilities provided within, would exceed expectations. Apart from reflecting the luxury InterContinental brand, the company also looked for materials that were produced, sourced and delivered responsibly and considered their social and environmental impact once in place.
Event production company, Massteknik was commissioned to develop technology and entertainment systems for the guest rooms in conjunction with other suppliers, Equiset and Phillips.
Tim Mitchell from Massteknik said, “Our involvement with the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto project began back in 2006. We worked in conjunction with Equiset to develop the technical solution for the initial prototype rooms. When the project began in earnest in 2008, we were appointed by Gallagher Jeffs to deploy the in-room entertainment system.
“Philips was chosen as the supplier of the televisions and we consider this to represent the very best in hotel LCD technologies at the moment. Bose was chosen as the supplier of the guestroom audio systems. We have a close working relationship with both Philips and Bose Australia, so we enjoy a unique position in this marketplace.
“Our team was responsible for the complete installation, including wall-mount brackets, fit-off, programming and tuning, as well as preparation of all technical documentation. We believe InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto has one of the most advanced hotel IPTV systems in Melbourne.”
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