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The iconic Crowne Plaza Hotel is a 13-storey building located on the northern bank of Melbourne’s perennial Yarra River. Constructed circa 1988, the brutalist building itself features a distinctive curved form unique within the Melbourne cityscape. Gray Puksand as the Executive Architect was engaged to deliver a timely refurbishment of the hotel (along with interior designers Studioaria and AK Design Network) and have repositioned its standing in the competitive international hotel market.

While the existing guest rooms have a clear outlook to the river, the reception area suffered from a lack of connection to this quintessential Melbourne landmark. Establishing an openness and visually connecting the hotel to the river was Gray Puksand’s top priority (as was facilitating the interior designers’ vision). This connection with the river was achieved through the creation of a new entrance, refurbishment of the existing Spencer Street entry stair and introduction of an additional 30 guest rooms in the new entrance’s undercroft. With each masterful architectural intervention, Gray Puksand has modernised the hotel in a way that complements the building’s existing architecture.

Pivotal to the overall transformation was the programmatic adjustment that reimagined the existing back-of-house driveway as the main vehicular drop-off; a new entrance in greater synergy with the river. And the introduction of the porte-cochère by a series of horizontal timber-look battens and glazing, offers protection from the elements and adds warmth to the existing structure’s dynamic form and scale. Together they create a sense of grandeur that gives patrons’ an exclusively elevated Melbourne experience.

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This experience is also heightened by the refurbishment of the Spencer Street entry stair, where a new blackened metal canopy and balustrade makes for a dramatic entrance. Yet the refurbishment’s most striking architectural element is the addition of the 30 new guest rooms. These lightweight structures are suspended from the building’s underside (where there was previously a void, plant room or services area) and offer a creative solution to room demand. Also clad in blackened metal sheeting, the rooms contrast with the existing concrete and introduce a level of material refinement that is timeless.

Reprogramming of internal spaces updates the outdated circulation layout and better relates the interior to the Spencer Street entry and Yarra River. The hotel’s reception area was once very insular and uninviting, but it is now outward-looking, with a central three-storey void leading to panoramic views of the city. Gray Puksand’s sophisticated refurbishment not only complement but add new life to a Melbourne icon.

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