It needed to rise above its location, to attract a carefully targeted demographic of hip young business people, and to make the most of longer-distance views across the city. All this, and it had to fit on a site that looked too small for it. Kristen Whittle, director of architect Bates Smart, said, ‘We had a height limit, and we came up with an S-shaped plan that gave us 30 rooms per floor. The building is 100m high and 100m long, and the curve gave us a changeable quality that we wanted to express.’ It did this by inserting slender vertical aluminium fins between the glazing elements on one of the long faces of the building. These fins, which are a dark colour, are 450mm wide and only 10mm thick. This means that, seen face on, they virtually disappear, but from an angle they are highly visible, especially as their width appears to double if they are reflected in the tinted and slightly mirrored glass. ‘As you move around the building, the blades appear and disappear,’ said Whittle. ‘The visual effect is to make the building appear more wobbly and more mysterious.’

They have an interesting effect from the inside as well, especially from the rooftop pool. This pool and accompanying spa were part of the architect’s response to a requirement to create a hotel that, despite its size, could offer some of the feeling of a boutique hotel. It designed a series of rooms that open directly off the spa area so that the guests staying there can walk straight into the facilities – of which the jewel in the crown is the infinity pool. By framing the view, the aluminium fins actually make it seem more important.

One might see the fins as playing a role in the building’s environmental strategy, by providing some solar shading but in fact, says Whittle, any effect is incidental. He is very clear that the reason for their use is aesthetic. This does not mean, however, that the architect has ignored the environmental issues, since after all the building has a five-star Greenstar rating. This, said Whittle, is largely thanks to the use of very high-performance glass to cut down on heat gain, plus other measures such as rainwater recycling and the re-use of grey water. The building also has an adaptable air conditioning system, which means that if a space is not being used the air conditioning switches off, ensuring that the energy use is kept to a minimum while not cutting back on comfort.

At the lowest level the building needs to connect to the surrounding facilities. The architect has linked high-end restaurants and bars through to the shopping centre and to the conference building with a linear element that is clad in light-coloured brushed aluminium. ‘We decided to express that connection in a linear way,’ said Whittle. ‘We needed a taut polished surface. We were able to achieve that vision through the use of ALUCOBOND® natural and polished metal. It gave us a polished skin that could be folded and bended. It was technically easier than concrete.’ This ribbon runs above the porte cochère of the building, along to the other facilities and also up part of the building. It has some tight curves in it and also some areas of double curvature.

Facade contractor Minesco who built the ribbon were, said Whittle, ‘very good technically. They were able to tool the panelling in the right way to make junction connections that went from two-dimensional panelling to three dimensional.’ The architect chose to use a brushed finish rather than a polished one for two reasons. One is that it avoids the ‘oil can’ effect of any imperfections on a perfectly polished surface. The other is that the fine lines that result from the grinding process on the surface mean that although it seems very smooth and flat, it does not reflect light in the same way as a polished surface, and therefore there was no danger of dazzling drivers on the adjacent road.

Whittle is excited about the design which, he believes, has created a new type of hotel for the client and has added to the vibrancy of the area. One day, when the old industrial area is redeveloped, it may no longer represent the edge of development but instead will sit in its heart. But it has enough distinctive properties that, however the environment changes, it will continue to stand out.

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