Past, present and future meet at InterContinental Sydney

InterContinental Sydney

InterContinental boasts 171 years of history and an iconic Sydney location. Now, with Woods Bagot’s redesign, one of the city’s premier hotels has been revitalised

InterContinental Sydney is a special place for more than one reason. Perhaps the most striking for the initial visitor is the wonderful heritage of what was previously the Treasury Building, built in 1851. A 32-level tower was completed in 1985, with visitors able to enjoy spectacular views all the way across the harbour out to Sydney Heads from the rooftop Aster Bar.

The journey to the bar is itself is a highlight. The light-filled, open space with its panoramic views is reached via an almost claustrophobic stairway. Intricately detailed, dark and close, it provides a dramatic passage to what is surely one of Sydney’s finest spots for a twilight drink.

“A big part of our vision was to make sure we were creating not only something for hotel guests but for everyone else too, and a lot of direction comes from the restaurants and bars to sit as destinations in their own right,” says Jennifer Brown, general manager of the hotel.

Back downstairs in the public heart of the building, it’s the setting of the Treasury Bar that really steals the show. The atrium formed between the buildings brings generous natural light into a space that is charming and stunning for its architectural heritage features. Arched balconies of sandstone and brick wrap around this central space, creating an atmosphere of grandeur and reminiscent of the heritage-listed General Post Office building in Martin Place.

“There’s something about sitting in history but being in a contemporary environment that is super special,” says Tracey Wiles, interior design leader at Woods Bagot.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation project and we placed great importance on our role in the historical lineage of the building, taking influences of the past and integrating them into a contemporary interpretation of the hotel. Permanence and longevity are at the heart of future heritage.”

Amidst the heritage heart of the building, a contemporary chevron-tiled floor has been added that matches the grandeur while creating a more modern atmosphere. The geometry of the floor pattern combines with copious green foliage to heighten the sense of openness in what is the original courtyard, as well as connecting to the nearby Royal Botanic Garden.

“The heritage architecture gave us a beautiful palette of colours, textures and classic geometries crafted in sandstone, brickwork and timber,” adds Wiles. “It was imperative we designed with the same integrity of the past, selecting materials that both imbue natural beauty and will stand the test of time. We created an interior of timeless elegance complementing the existing beauty and protecting the historical lineage for future generations.”

The redesign by Woods Bagot has placed renewed emphasis on the experience of entering the hotel. As guests or visitors arrive from the porte cochère, they are greeted by a striking, sculptural stone wall which seems to open and reveal itself as one passes by.

Project leader, Tim Davies, explains: “We designed a plissé (pleated) stone wall to invite guests through to The Treasury Bar. The feature wall is highly — a mix of honed limestone with book-matched Verde Oceania marble that forms a unified image at a certain point within the reception. Spotted Gum reception desks complement the feature wall and reference the naturalistic forms of Sydney’s coastal edge.”

The $120m project took several years and is the result of close collaboration between Woods Bagot, operator InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, owner Mulpha Australia and construction company Built.

From first-time Sydney visitors to city workers meeting in the public areas for food and drinks, InterContinental Sydney is setting a high bar in luxury hotel amenities. With all the grace of the building’s heritage past, it now has a contemporary redesign that ensures an exciting future too.

Photography by Trevor Mein

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