The three level Imperial Hotel Erskineville is a ‘palace of pleasure’. This project represents the relaunch of one of Australia's most revered LGBQTI safe havens. As a cultural icon, it was the birthplace of the movie Priscilla and plays a pivotal role in the greater Sydney community as a historic theatre and event space. It is dynamically programmed and responsive, turning from dining to dance floor with ease.
The ground floor is made up of a 250-seat restaurant called Priscillas and has been conceived as a lost palace, a cabaret dream scape of haphazardly replaced stone floor tiles and detailed timberwork. Various hand forged steel-framed glass houses and skylights throw shadows over broken brickwork, hand laid masonry arches and bespoke tile patterns. The melted wax from the central fireplace and hearth in contrast to the vivid colour ways of the furniture and the dirty pink tones of the detailed ceilings and walls.
The project is illuminated by various repurposed lamp shades and brass wall sconces. Carefully curated fringed pendants throw shadow upon table settings whilst the main entry is notably illuminated by broke-down chandeliers. The space also features a private dining area with large paper sculpture and open kitchen. The main bar features a bespoke cathedral-esque/Biblical fresco ceiling mural with the adjoining theatrical cocktail bar opening out onto a glazed enclosure to an inner courtyard and wintergarden.
The project is careful to reimagine this cultural building icon into a place of fantasy whilst respectfully acknowledging its LGBQTI custodians. It is outrageous, inclusive and fantastic but not light. Amongst its array of colour and shape is the gravity of its legacy, the shadow of history cast upon its many surfaces. This is a place to celebrate and rediscover, but also a place with significant legacy, grit, sometimes even heaviness.
Although the project feels immediately decorative, it is in fact a collection of robust building materials faced in make up. Brick work, concrete, steel, all represented in colour and high fidelity. Something in the metaphor of Priscillas restaurant is the ability for this rawness to never feel like a construction site, but instead a theatre of colour, a visual outrage.
The upper level pizzeria and bar is called Imperial UP and features an outdoor golden pizza oven, bar and an indoor cocktail bar, private dining room, lounge and seating. There is also a lower level nightclub and Australia’s first same sex marriage Cathedral is due to open in 2019 on the rooftop.
Client name: The Sydney Collective
Location: Erskineville, Sydney, Australia
Principal Architect: Jeremy Bull, Sophie Harris
Interior Design team: Larissa Raymond, Madison Faye, Lucy Forlico, Rouda Taouk
Project completion date: February 2017
Photographer: Anson Smart
Editorial Stylist: Claire Delmar
About Alexander &CO.
Alexander &CO is a multidisciplinary design practice with a global reach.
Their capabilities span a broad range of typological sectors where they work in all facets of spatial and brand design. Their technical skill base includes Architecture, Interior Design, Project Management, Styling, Branding and Master Planning.
At the core of Alexander &CO's DNA is the ambition to create timeless and market leading design. The studio provides a client journey that is focused on highly effective relationships and outcomes. Their people and culture are recognised by an empathic, social and team focused communication.