The lux­u­ri­ous and the site spe­cific.

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Neue Lux­ury

One does not of­ten use the terms ‘guerilla’ and ‘anar­chy’ to de­scribe a lux­ury ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence. In much the same way you don’t typ­i­cally imag­ine ar­chi­tects mov­ing in se­cret, plan­ning and schem­ing the re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of lux­ury ho­tel suites un­der the thin veil of a ‘do not dis­turb’ sign. But, Aus­tralian based ar­chi­tect Matthew Bird has never re­ally viewed the world of lux­ury through a con­ven­tional lens.

Ho­tel Oth­er­worldly (2012), Bird’s most re­cent guerilla style ar­chi­tec­tural event, wit­nessed the se­cret ho­tel room trans­for­ma­tion within an ex­ist­ing iconic Melbourne ho­tel, un­be­known to both man­age­ment and staff. Planned for more than a year and in­stalled over a pe­riod of three in­tense days, the project draws com­par­i­son to the prac­tice of ‘Se­cret Wall Tat­too­ing’, where artists in­stall hid­den art be­hind ex­ist­ing ho­tel room paint­ings and mir­rors.

Ho­tel Oth­er­worldly, how­ever, man­i­fested within the de­cay of an ex­ist­ing 1970s land­mark Melbourne ho­tel and is in­tended as a new leisure oa­sis for the ex­pe­ri­ence-seek­ing trav­eller. Shar­ing a sig­nif­i­cant lin­eage from Con­rad Hil­ton’s orig­i­nal ‘Hil­ton In­ter­na­tional’ ho­tel chain, namely the mod­ernist in­cred­i­ble­ness of Hil­ton Nile, Is­tan­bul Hil­ton, Tel Aviv Hil­ton and Hil­ton Athens, which were built in priv­i­leged ar­eas of his­toric tourist lo­ca­tions and to lux­u­ri­ous Amer­i­can stan­dards. Each show­cased Amer­i­can in­no­va­tion and the power of the demo­cratic west within an eastern ex­oti­cism.

Re­alised in the 1950s and 1960s, these build­ings were seen as bril­liant Amer­i­can air-con­di­tioned aliens touch­ing down in ma­jor his­toric cen­tres for the priv­i­leged tourist to gaze upon from the com­fort of their stream­lined arm­chairs. The in­te­rior spa­ces, guest rooms, lobby, restau­rants and pools were never de­void of re­gional ref­er­ence and were of­ten ‘dec­o­rated’ in ab­stracted ge­ome­tries that typ­i­fied each lo­ca­tion. The Hil­ton Nile, for ex­am­ple, was richly dec­o­rated in ab­stract, hand­crafted mu­rals of hiero­glyph­ics.

Ho­tel Oth­er­worldly’s lo­ca­tion of choice was a much later and less ex­otic 1972 de­riv­a­tive. Built within af­flu­ent East Melbourne, the build­ing takes on Con­rad Hil­ton’s prin­ci­ples of a priv­i­leged po­si­tion and mul­ti­level pro­por­tions, but dras­ti­cally falls short in all other as­pects. The brown brick, bal­cony-less and generic ‘any­where in the world’ in­te­rior is far from the ex­otic and in­no­va­tive ideas of its founder. Work­ing within an ex­ist­ing typ­i­cal ‘king guest’ room, Bird’s in­stal­la­tion cov­ers the ex­ist­ing dé­cor with a repet­i­tive trape­zoid ge­om­e­try, ar­chi­tect crafted in var­i­ous lo­cally sourced ma­te­ri­als. The repet­i­tive ge­om­e­try plays homage to early Euro­pean mod­ernist fa­cades but sub­verts be­spoke dé­cor with colour and tex­ture that ref­er­ences indige­nous flora, fauna, his­tory and cul­ture.

Na­tive fauna ref­er­ences of furry wal­la­bies and leap­ing crocodiles float within, fold­ing and il­lu­mi­nat­ing trape­zoid wall art­works. The bed­room’s gold and green tones re­flect the Aus­tralian flo­ral em­blem of golden wat­tle and the Aurora Aus­tralis (the south­ern lights), whilst sub­tly an­nounc­ing a proud ‘Aus­tralian Made’ pal­ette. Com­pli­mented by both blue and ma­roon the colours evoke Aus­tralia’s colo­nial and Bri­tish royal fam­ily ties.

The bath­room in­stal­la­tion is crafted from thou­sands of bub­ble wrap trape­zoid forms ar­tic­u­lat­ing a sur­real liq­uid soap foam­ing dis­per­sion. The tex­ture of the do­mes­tic shower cur­tain is rem­i­nis­cent of the rep­til­ian scales of the salt-wa­ter croc­o­dile. In­ven­tively, the bulk of ma­te­ri­als used through­out the project were sourced from var­i­ous DIY ware­house sup­pli­ers, along with low-cost con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als such as gold floor un­der­lay, plas­tic shade cloth and blue anti-slip rub­ber floor­ing. Fur­ther ma­te­ri­als such as wal­laby furs, au­to­mo­tive leather, brass wash­ers, pink and clear bub­ble-wrap were all sourced from lo­cal man­u­fac­tures as off-cuts. The low-cost ma­te­ri­als lux­u­ri­ously ar­tic­u­late through­out both the main bed­room and en­suite bath­room spa­ces. A lo­cal ef­figy, or per­haps an ef­figy of a fu­ture trav­eller, was crafted to guide the process of cut­ting and weav­ing over 10,000 trape­zoids with over 7000 ca­ble ties.

Fast for­ward to the fu­ture and we will see Ho­tel Oth­er­worldly con­tinue with the re­design of other as­pects of the Ho­tel build­ing (with or with­out per­mis­sion no doubt). With Bird’s vi­sion of trans­form­ing the build­ing’s ex­te­rior with a bal­cony in­stal­la­tion fa­cade and the roof with a new en­ter­tain­ing ‘plea­sure’ deck & pool. Fur­ther in­te­rior pub­lic ar­eas will also be mod­i­fied with the same tex­tu­ral vi­sion and de­tail­ing.

In dis­cov­er­ing Bird’s vi­sion for Ho­tel Oth­er­worldly and in un­der­stand­ing the move back to­wards the con­sid­ered and the be­spoke, we can’t help but won­der if the next gen­er­a­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence-seek­ing lux­ury ho­tel pil­grims will wit­ness a de­par­ture from a cur­rent ho­mogenised brand-led gener­i­cism, in favour of a more overt, Con­rad Hil­ton-es­que sen­si­bil­ity of the alien, the lux­u­ri­ous and the site spe­cific.

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