Garden State Hotel is a highly impressive, purpose-built four-storey bar and hospitality venue at 101 Flinders Lane. Formerly the site of iconic ’80s and ’90s hospitality venue Rosati, and once a beacon for the city’s social scene, Garden State Hotel is now owned and operated by Sand Hill Road, the hospitality group behind a string of successful high-end pubs including Bridge Hotel, Richmond Club Hotel, Terminus Hotel and Prahran Hotel.

As with the reinvention of these now iconic venues, Sand Hill Road has once again tasked Technē with transforming the venue into the Garden State Hotel.

Technē has completely redesigned the venue while preserving its distinctive exterior as well as other elements of the building’s fabric, itself a heritage Victorian-era building that began life as a textile mill in 1896. New materials enhance, compliment and draw on the existing characteristics of the site while displaying an aesthetic very much in the vein of Technē’s previous works.

The Technē design centres on a large multi-level beer garden, an oasis of sorts in the middle of the Melbourne CBD and a far cry from the multi-level hotel once proposed for the site.

Instead, a series of spaces – a procession of contraction, expansion and again contraction – beginning with the front bar are evident. These are tied together by a timber pergola structure which reinforces the importance and role of the central courtyard filled with plants and trees. Reflecting this verdant theme, the name Garden State Hotel borrows Victoria’s century-old state title, ‘The Garden State’.

Urban Melbourne met with Technē director Justin Northrop for a tour of the venue, who described the project, built by Schiavello Constructions, as an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate a substantial CBD site for the hospitality sector.

The 2,000sqm project has a capacity for 840 guests and preserves much of the original textile factory’s sawtooth roof while opening its central bays to form a terraced beer garden that has the feel of a Victorian conservatory, one which encourages exploration and discovery of its various spaces.

The contemporary pub is a versatile space, with different rooms and areas to support varied audiences and functions as pubs are traditionally very much voyeuristic places.

“Within the Melbourne CBD there is probably no other hospitality venue, based on the spirit of a pub, that offers a comparable variety of spaces and experiences under the one roof. Additionally, we are able to work effortlessly with Sand Hill Road, having developed effective communication, trust and understanding over a number of years. For Garden State Hotel, together we explored planning diagrams in three-dimensional models because the vertical connection between spaces is so critical to encourage patrons to move throughout the whole venue.”

Justin Northrop, Techne Director

According to Northrop, one of the challenges the site presented was the change in level between Flinders Lane and Duckboard Place to the rear. This presented an opportunity for the project to act as a mediator, helping patrons negotiate this level change through their movement through the spaces with the central courtyard allowing for circular traffic through and around while creating lines of sight from one space to the next.

In addition to the multi-level beer garden at its core, the project involved the creation of a street-level public bar at the front of the site. It was critical that patrons arriving at the front were greeted by a member of the bar staff.

While the front bar is still likely to be a vibrant community watering hole, bespoke dining areas and private function rooms create opportunities where the pub now services the entire hospitality spectrum, from casual get-togethers to finer dining and corporate events. The venue is very much egalitarian, says Northrop with everyone and anyone welcome.

He expects a broad patronage, underpinned largely by professionals in adjoining buildings, but sees the venue as “somewhere you could also bring your mother for lunch.”

A self-contained dining area dubbed Garden Grill, inspired by the bistros of New York and France borders the courtyard and features the Raw Bar, serving Melbourne’s freshest seafood. The ambience is soft and warm with a strong sense of tradition.

The basement-level Rose Garden is an intimate cocktail bar with chandeliers, eclectic antique wall décor, repurposed Oregon purlins and giant rose motifs hand-painted by local artisans and can be accessed off Duckboard Place. Northrop describes the space as very much as a mash-up of old and new.

New concrete columns support the upstairs kitchen and the other upper-level spaces including the Balcony Dining Room, for small group bookings. The Observatory is the venue’s premier functions space, which will hold up to 120 people in a light-filled room with views onto both the garden below and over to the city outside.

What Garden State Hotel shares in common with other Technē and Sand Hill Road projects is a dynamism evident in its various internal spaces. Technē’s design for Garden State Hotel links vertically integrated spaces across four levels both physically and visually, encouraging a sense of exploration and movement throughout the venue.

I encourage all Melburnians to get down to Garden State Hotel and explore for themselves, and at the very least appreciate the nuances in the design.

Article by Laurence Dragomir 11/08/2016