Long considered a beloved social meeting ground for the surrounding community, the Woolwich Pier Hotel, nestled within an 1885-built heritage-listed building in the northern suburbs of Sydney, sported a very different look just barely a year ago.
Apart from the obvious lack of adequate modern amenities such as kitchen, storage, bar and sanitary, the tree-surrounded hotel suffered from architectural limitations such as low ceilings and insufficient spatial planning; guest rooms were displaced and the layout was disjointed, while the courtyard and first floor balcony had lost its lustre after over 130 years of wear and tear.
On a quest to revitalise the hotel back to its full glory, the established Laundy family – who owns the hotel – tapped Australian design and architectural firm Alexander and Co for the job. “The client wanted a space that is light, bright and fresh with the ability to allow for a more flexible, varied use of space,” says the firm.
As with many projects that fuses the old and the new, Alexander and Co’s founder and head principal architect Jeremy Bull looked to the architecture’s historic backbone itself for inspiration – a process that unveiled a plethora of surprising and wondrous elements.
“Excellence can be found in the building’s ability to communicate the history of Woolwich,” says the team, who pointed to the hidden layers of rustic, weathered concrete, brick, steel and timber that they uncovered during one of the revitalisation’s most strenuous undertakings – the gutting of the majority of the interiors to relocate the central staircase, which now acts as a cross-section for the venue’s two opposing levels. They decided to lay bare these elements that now frame the new staircase, as well as exposing the existing ceilings, fully celebrating the hotel’s heritage and its architectural form.
The redesign also introduces a ground floor sports bar and charming dining hall that sits next to the beautiful revitalised courtyard, which has been restored to its original state. Upstairs, what was previously a series of rooms have been transformed into a first-floor salon and a charming, plush dining area that looks out to unadulterated harbour views, thanks to the lowered balustrades on the balcony.
“Our intention was that the venue’s story should evoke a sense of the familiar without belonging to any particular time or place,” says the firm. As such, the team has chosen for the interiors a modern European mid-century decorating style that meshes beautifully with the hotel’s palpable old-time glamour. Earthy furnishing and design elements, including reclaimed and restored furniture and lighting, mural artwork and exposed brickwork give a vintage, tactile atmosphere. These are juxtaposed against decidedly more contemporary and feminine touches such as upholstery in velvet and linen and finishes in marble and brass that inject the new interiors with a bright freshness.
The result is a restored hotel that is a delicate balance between revitalisation and respect for its heritage. Oozing versatility and spirit, it not only answers to the requirements of the Woolwich community but also reintroduces itself as a once again vibrant, characterful meeting hub for young families and new visitors alike.