guest post by caitlin of setsquare: the western hotel

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Having spent my entire formative years in regional Victoria I was always under the misguided assumption that if you yearned for inspiring modern design you needed to travel to the ‘Big Smoke’ (Melbourne).

Whilst Ballarat has a rich array of Heritage Listed Gold Rush era Architecture, it has only been within recent times that a resurgence of beautifully considered contemporary designs have begun popping up around town. 

The renovation and extensions to the Western Hotel by Porter Architects is no such exception, as it boldly re-asserts Ballarat’s role within Contemporary Architectural design. Carefully detailed throughout there is a unique play of materials, from shuttered concrete facades, to exposed brickwork fireplaces, marble and ply joinery and rich Tasmanian Oak detailing. There is a warmth to this place that makes you feel instantly at ease. 

For anyone who is familiar to Ballarat, it is at its most beautiful this time of year-cold and slightly dreary but with the most dynamic crisp grey skies. This dramatic canvas provides the perfect backdrop for the concrete, glazed and blackened metal pavilion. Floating oversized rooflines announce the new addition’s place next to the existing 1870’s building. A clever balance between respecting the existing and pushing forward into modern times is negotiated throughout. Pops of colour expressed through fluorescent orange and green ‘Tom Dixon’ outdoor furniture allude to the summer ahead and relaxed times spent in the beer garden.

Inside the furnishings and surface treatments take what is a large building and converts it into a series of more intimate spaces. This project presents an eclectic array of both designer and vintage furniture from Featherston chairs to Hans Wegner sofas and the Mezal tables. The feature Modo Chandeliers emit a sense of grandeur that references the extravagances of Gold Rush times past.

It is, however, the dedication to the use of locally sourced craftsmanship and materials that sets this project apart. The recycled brick fireplace within the new pavilion is possibly my favourite feature of the Western Hotel. Using second hand bricks, found at a demolition yard on the outskirts of town, it stops short of full height allowing the light to illuminate it from behind. It showcases an innate understanding of the module of the brick and through the act of rotation creates a room divider that is considered and textural. This fireplace detailing has been repeated within the courtyard, highlighting the versatility of the material chosen and the pavilion’s relationship to the courtyard.

For me, this project was worth coming ‘home’ for. I am re-inspired by the notion that good design can and does exist outside of capital cities. In the words of the Western’s Architect Nathan Porter, this design aims to ‘unite a worldly perspective with a local perspective... The pub was already a gem underneath, so it was really about peeling the layers off, revealing its soul and showing off its old charm alongside a respectful contemporary intervention’.

- Caitlin

[ Photos by Caitlin Perry ]


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