5 Hotham Street
Collingwood Victoria 3066.
Photographer: Sean Fennessy
650 Little Bourke Street,
Higher Ground is an exceptionally executed exercise in solving logistical challenges while safeguarding the expression of, and respect for, an existing spatial volume, a historic former power station in the western end of Melbourne's city grid. The design team has shown considerable restraint in defining the space, creating a host of experiences at different levels (both literally and figuratively), resulting in what the jury has referred to as an "urban drawing room."
Rather than relying on visual tropes that reflect well-known hospitality types, the resulting space is ambiguous in the way that a high-end hotel's foyer can be ambiguous. The client refers to this as the ambition to create a "hotel without rooms," and the desire to make something the likes of which Melbourne has not yet seen. The finished venue is remarkably comfortable and achieves this left-of-field ambition.
Finally, the variety of spaces and "perches" created at different levels in the singular volume allows many opportunities for diners to get comfortable. At the same time, each occupant is rewarded with a different voyeuristic perspective on the gathered crowd, and the experience of a visit is different every time.