Two of Sydney’s most iconic sites – the Gowings and State Theatre Buildings – have been restored to their former glory through the creation of a 200-suite hotel that has become a new landmark in the city.
The boutique accommodation, the first new five-star hotel in the CBD in 10 years, was designed by Woodhead Australia to preserve most of the buildings' distinctive features, including the blend of Gothic and Art Deco-influenced architecture that forms the exterior of the hotel.
“This multifaceted project involved the fusing of two buildings with historically distinct uses and construction systems that led to unique and significant design challenges in terms of structural connectivity, seismic treatments, architecturally and the resultant interior spaces,” said Woodhead.
Although the two buildings were built in the 1920s, they both have very different styles. The State Theatre is one of only two surviving theatres in the city designed by Australian architect Henry E. White and American architect John Eberson. The building incorporates eclectic elements of Gothic, Italian and Art Deco design.
The Gowings department store, designed by Crawford H. Mackeller and constructed in 1929, has been completely preserved, including the sandstone clad façade and the reconstruction of the parapet detailing. In addition, two notable original illuminated blade signs have been preserved and advertise the current Gowings Bar and Grill.
The designers went to great lengths in preserving the representative historic elements that make these buildings unique.
“The original hallway configuration within the Gowings Buildings was retained and adapted and historic fabric with important joinery conserved and celebrated. The iconic and much loved original Gowings Barber Shop has been retained and transformed into a part of the hotel spa, the historic ceiling is conserved and once again open to the general public,” they said.
The illuminated blade sign of the State Theatre façade has also been preserved and sculptures of knights in armour, lions and gargoyles in the façade have been reconstructed for the first time since they were ruined during World War II.
The professional team had to incorporate several specialists such as structural engineers and service consultants to deal with the complex issues raised by a heritage building. Artists, interior and graphic designers, food and beverage consultants, digital artists and fire engineers worked together towards the project’s final design.
The project won the Francis Greenway Award for Heritage Architecture Creative Adaptation - the Australian Institute of Architects’ most prestigious heritage conservation award - at the 2013 NSW Architecture Awards.
"The build of QT (Hotel) Sydney was sensitive to the historical significance of the sites, the construction embarked on a painstaking three-year restoration project in an effort to retain the distinct heritage of each building. The gothic features of the Palazzo-style Gowings Building, originally designed by renowned architect Crawford H Mackellar, have been thoughtfully returned to their former glory," said InterContinental Hotel Group managing director David Sargent.
AIA NSW Chapter president Joe Agius said the restoration and conversion of theses buildings was "an exceptional gift for the city."