The Crown Metropol Atrium Lobby and Bar at Burswood Casino, Perth is a complete five-star renovation of a former 417 room Intercontinental Hotel, I lead the design team at the boutique design studio of Blainey North in 2011. For now, lets just concentrate on the first impression, the Atrium lobby and Lobby Bar. Designing such a massive space below a glass atrium which soars up the ten floors of rooms is a very exciting challenge. It is one of those rare times where the planning arrangement is as important as the experience from the ground plane eye level, as the spatial arrangement is visible from half of the hotels entry corridors above.
The Original 1987 building looks like a cruise ship that has elegantly beached herself on the banks of the wide Swan River. The first stage of the project for Blainey North was the refurbishment of all the 417 rooms and suites and a 900 square metre Presidential suite. The design of these gave reverence to 1920’s classic cruise liners. (more on this in a post to come).
So it was logical that the grand statement and the arrival experience to the hotel also have Deco grandeur. Shall I just mention, Crown Metropol Perth was awarded the ‘Best Australian Hotel Renovation’ at the 2013 International Hotel Awards for Asia Pacific!
It was most exciting to work with Blainey on such a high profile, glamorous and technically complex project. As there was no ceiling, it was more like designing a landscape or town centre. The central “lift screen” is the jewel in the Crown at the apex of the triangular atrium space. It was a wonderful opportunity to create an architectural folly and centre piece where function was purely a safety barrier to prevent patrons from being clocked by a glass lift car delivering guests to ground level.
The triple curved 12 metre high screen wraps around the lobby side of the lift towers and is grounded by a polished black granite clad base. The screen celebrates the verticality of the atrium void with her mirror polished chrome clad structural blades, creating recesses for internally and illuminated black metal screens, which are adorned with thousands of in-situ, hand placed rectangular bevelled edge mirror pieces.
The strong vertical direction of the object also nicely cuts across the existing horizontals of the room corridors and the little triangular balconies on the lift shaft encourage the eye to keep travelling beyond the central reflective finial to the sky and sails above.
Not an inspiration at concept stage for the then Intercontinental, but in hindsight, elements of Metropol atrium take me to discussing the most extreme Deco style film ever made. “Metropolis” released in 1927 by Fritz Lang, was a German expressionist pioneer of the science fiction genre, made in Germany during the Weimar period and was the most expensive movie ever made at the time.
It is truly one of the most stylised pieces of cinema ever and still looks futuristic today. If you haven’t seen it, please do. There is so much pioneering, profoundly Deco production design to absorb. Brigitte Helm plays the saviour of the workers, Maria and the decadent deco robot .
I can see Brigitte Helm rising through the atrium atop on of the deco lift carriages. In a scene from Metropolis, the delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria in the city of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon. I digress! But more on this later,
The “Lobby Bar” greets guests on arrival and is positioned on the junction of the Atrium Buffet Restaurant, separated by a 400mm thick stone clad wall. Large slots were cut in the wall like a giant comb to allow restricted views to the restaurant. The weight of a thick, slotted stone wall seemed appropriate to the massive volume of the space, rather than a lightweight and delicate screen.
From the Convention Centre, patrons travel along the yellow brick road and through the centre of the bar seating area, so that it feels more like an alfresco lounge in a landscape. An important part of the later brief was that it should have a resort vibe to suit the greater site of the complex, hence the deep aqua velvet pools of lounge areas either side of the walkway.
The elegant bespoke furniture, decorative lights and carpet was custom designed and documented for the space by Candida from Blainey North. Blainey inspected and further refined detailing in the prototypes for each design so that the result was unique pieces befitting of 1920’s high ideals.
The bar itself is monolithic in appearance in order to sit comfortably within the vast void above. A completely cantilevered canopy provides intimacy and sense of place for the bar and the structure disappears within with black and silver mirror clad wall of the rear bar. Big Bing factor! The festooned champagne gold fabric ceiling creates a soft canopy, referencing resort freestanding pagoda and cabana structures.
Intimacy is enhanced within the vast space at night by careful creation of pools of light and highlighting the textured surfaces.
The lift screen has many moods, generated by multiple options of dimmable warm white uplights and internal illumination. The only way to get this right, was to test various options and light levels during construction. This process with Warren from BCA was fun.
Great Garbo in a classic Deco hotel from “The Kiss” 1929
Brigitte Helm in Metropolis.
Image sources; Justin Condon and Crown Metropol, Perth website