Location: Melbourne VIC, Australia
Principal Engineer: Wallbridge & Gilbert
Developer: Plough & Harrow C/o Mider Developments
Principal Contractor: Galvin Construction
Specialist Concrete Subcontractor: Westkon
Photographs: John Gollings, Tony Miller, Rob Stent
From the architect. Function and Performance
The Canada Hotel redevelopment is a student accommodation project that provides 219 one bedroom apartments on the site of the historic Canada Hotel. A new 13 level tower stands over the reinvigorated hotel, its distinctive form and language acknowledging the historic building as ancestor.
The entry to the building is marked by a dark fissure that is seemingly carved between the new and existing structures. An undulating, blackened ceiling completes the cave-like experience and escorts entrants to the reception and lift lobby.
The project continues the evolution of the inner-Melbourne’s ‘Pelham Precinct’ with a robust architectural language that relates to neighbouring projects. The striking façade, comprised of stacked geometric panels that spiral up and around the building, uses its carefully cut openings to de-scale an otherwise monumental building and establishes a lively rhythm with light and shade, solid and void.
Comment on the diverse local context is found in a Liquorice Allsorts motif that is introduced externally as coloured balcony reveals and continued in the lift interior, laundry ceiling and stair nosings.
The use of concrete was integral to cost efficiency and buildability, as explained further below. With 60% of the façade comprised of ‘self-finishing’ off-form concrete, the material requirement for secondary finishes was greatly reduced.
The overlapping façade panels were fixed to the steel structure to (along with truss decks) provide permanent formwork for poured concrete floor slabs. No propping of the slab was required allowing other work to proceed concurrently.
The patterning of the panels describes their spiral installation. The architectural complexity of the façade design belies its cost efficiency and role in accelerating a conventional construction process.
Significance in relation to Public Domain
The architectural dialogue between the historic hotel and the new tower is explicit and publically engaging: insertion of the tower’s window motif into the hotel’s former openings provides a literal depiction of the hotel’s reinvention. Retail and cafe tenancies fill the ground floor, building on the vibrancy of a young and diverse resident population.
The building employs the thermal mass of concrete throughout its external envelope. Concrete panels operate in this project as a genuinely integrated finish: they provide both permanent formwork and a curtain-wall façade. They are both substrate and skin.
The integration of precast panels with truss-deck flooring was very effective in both practical and economic terms. While concrete construction is typically assumed to be load-bearing, the panels operate here as a curtain wall. Each of over 400 panels was individually modelled using Revit software to optimise construction accuracy. Construction tolerances were exploited as a design motif and expressed as defined overlaps between neighbouring panels.