Location: Commercial Road, Prahran VIC
Structural Engineer: Rincovitch & Partners
Builder: Asian Pacific Building Corporation
Architect: Jackson Clements Burrows &
Capitol Commercial Architecture
Operator: Art Series Hotel Group
Bricklayer: EGI Bricklaying
Photographer: Michael Laurie
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ART HOTEL GOES FROM GRUNGE TO GLAMOUR
The Cullen Hotel occupies a high-profile site, formerly holding a nondescript tyre depot, in Commercial Road, Prahran opposite the famous Prahran Market and in the heart of one of Melbourne’s premier shopping and entertainment precincts.
Such a prominent project and location demanded a premium façade material. Austral Bricks Elements Zinc semi-glazed bricks “were pretty much always our first choice,” says project architect Rob Kennon. Their metallic finish “had a bit more intrigue. That shimmer and sparkle is inherent in their materiality.”
The hotel has 119 apartments over its seven levels, including six rooftop penthouse suites. There are retail tenancies at ground level, a rooftop function space and one level of below-ground parking. Over 400 works by Adam Cullen are placed throughout the building including two life-size fibreglass cows in the foyer!
Jackson Clements Burrows design team – Rob Kennon,Tim Jackson, project director and Michael Stelluto, associate architect overseeing documentation – were responsible for the design concept and development through to town planning approval.Their work was then passed over to Capitol Commercial Architecture,Asian Pacific Building Corporation’s in-house design department headed by Jeff Porter, which took the project through the design development and construction phases.
Kennon describes the façade design as a “very strong push and pull concept. We were playing with depth”The most prominent expressions of this are balconies, expressed on the western façade and recessed along the Commercial Road frontage.“A conventional two-dimensional façade wouldn’t have the ability to cast shadows on itself,” he adds.
Although the building is not tall, the brickwork gives it a more monolithic appearance.“We liked the idea of the bricks being able to connect right to the ground.We wanted to feel the weight of the building, for it to be well grounded and have a sense of mass.”
Brick was the façade material of choice from the early concept meetings.“We liked the craftsmanship of brick and the fact that it’s literally laid one by one, so there’s more of a finer grain to it,” Kennon reflects.“There is precedent for it standing the test of time so it gives the building longevity.”
Detailed set-out of the brick courses was essential in such a large construction to ensure corners ended on whole bricks. Computer-aided design allowed the placement of every brick to be readily detailed.The brickwork sits on shelf angles at each level.
Mortar joint colour and finish is always an essential design consideration.A dark charcoal colour was selected after site testing.The joints have a shallow, ironed (half-round) finish.
“It was a bold move for Jackson Clements Burrows to go with Elements Zinc bricks,” Capitol Commercial Architecture’s Jeff Porter considers,“but I think it’s been a very successful choice.”
The Cullen has received a number of accolades including placement in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller Hot List.
“Choosing the painter Adam Cullen, Australian art’s angst-ridden enfant terrible, as the inspiration for The Cullen has proved a masterstroke,” said the Condé Nast judges who described the building as “cleverly designed” with “visual provocation (awaiting) at every turn.”
Elements bricks are an impressive and innovative architectural range. Their beautiful matt and semi-glazed faces impart a shimmering, silk-like finish and subtle sheen. The unique metallic glaze of Zinc glistens by day and reflects a soft glow at night.