Project// Calile Hotel, Brisbane

Architect// Richards & Spence

Photography// Sean Fennessy

Featured Products// Austral Bricks La Paloma in Miro. Click here

Architecture duo Richards & Spence create a social heart of elegant and discreet chic in their home town of Brisbane.

“We have been described as brutalist,” says Ingrid Richards of Brisbane architectural practice Richards & Spence. “But that term suggests a minimal aesthetic for its own sake. We are more interested in experience than style.”

And what an experience The Calile Hotel provides. The 175-room hotel in the James St precinct, about 2.5 kilometres from Brisbane City, is the most significant of Richards & Spence’s built work to date, and has been a critical hit both in architectural and user circles since it opened last year.

Brutalism maybe not, but there is restraint, even austerity, about the hotel’s design. “We are seeking a reductive outcome: as much as necessary, as little as possible,” explains Ingrid. 

But there is also immense generosity in the design – a sense of openness, an embrace of warmth and light, and the attention to the value of a seemingly small gesture that lies at the heart of a luxury experience. “Moments of intense details ensure guests can relax and feel especially cared for,” she says. 

The hotel has an almost monumental weight, but its pale and limited palette, natural materials and emphasis on outdoor pleasure inspire a light step in even the weariest of travellers. Like its James St precinct neighbours, The Calile is predominantly white brick, stone and expressed concrete. “And the journey from lobby to pool cabana is a continuous outdoor experience,” says Ingrid. The hotel corridors themselves were conceived as “elevated streets”.

Breeze-block screens, outdoor ceiling fans, breezy balconies and fluttering palms reference some of the tropics most enduring iconography but the hotel remains very much of its own city. “Our ambition is to find our own civic identity,” explains Ingrid. “Rather than rely on associations with international cities, we strive to dignify our own hot weather condition. We believe that our climate is the single most defining factor of our character and sense of place.”

The hotel embraces that climate at every turn, even as it tempers it for comfort. The podium-level pool terrace, shielded from the street, takes the sweaty disorder that can come with higher temperatures and transforms it into cool, civilised, calming elegance.

That vibe is echoed in the rooms themselves, which feature cork underfoot to soften both sound and touch, along with stone and solid timber – materials set to stand the tests of time and climate. 
Exclusive it may be, but Ingrid and her co-director, Adrian Spence, were always determined to create a building that contributes to the wider civic life of Brisbane.

“Interstate and international guests seeking an alternative to the standard corporate offerings bring a dynamic new population to the precinct,” says Ingrid. “And large numbers of locals are choosing a ‘staycation’ in their home town. The Calile Hotel has become a much-needed social heart for a growing city.”

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