The elegance of the recent refurbishment by Hassell of The Park Royal in Sydney’s Darling Harbour lies in the design house’s rigorous appreciation of spatial planning as a means to excite, guide and cocoon the visitor. This is compounded by an understanding of the use of layered details to engage and sustain a relationship with the end user, which answers pragmatic, aesthetic and comforting needs.
Moreover, the interior masterfully walks the fine line of a contemporary aesthetic that appeals to a range of clientele – from executive business travellers to the weekend city getaway set, while giving a gentle nod to the non-clichéd spectrum of Australian iconography.
A curving wall inserted into the lobby continues the sweeping arc of the landscaped entry of the hotel’s exterior
Comprising a vast and curved volume, the Park Royal foyer swells from delivery point to a series of lounge areas. Delineated by the insertion of an oval of rich teal carpet (in collaboration with RC&D) with a subtle Australian floral line drawing and the nest-like arrangements of furnishings, the device of containment lends these areas a human scale.
Effectively, this allows the space to be both visually spectacular, as well as fully cognisant of the grand atrium void, while providing comfortable intimacy when being used as a lounge. The introduction of Florence Broadhurst and Mokum fabrics to the Croissant lounge chairs and Fency chairs is aesthetically appropriate. Additional lounge areas utilise the same colour scheme but in reverse, with teal upholstered Arana chairs placed directly on the white flooring.
Timber panelling inset into the curving wall and a nest-like seating area introduce a human scale into the otherwise grand arrival zone
Timber panels inserted into the curving wall reinforce the human scale within this expansive open space by creating a visual truncation that positions the lounge as a standalone without impeding the fluid curves of the room. Indeed, when viewed as a grand arrival statement, the introduction of these dark-stained panels into the whole brings emphasis to the curving wall as an echo of the atrium void above.
The wall itself is a densely textured white that draws abundant nuance of shadow and light, while the desks and counters are faced with a flat polished surface and subtle geometric motif that appears throughout the hotel to gently coalesce the whole. Completing this section is a sleek coffee station and media port, featuring a black Koskela table with white-on-blonde, custom-finished Thonet Hermann chairs below large white Coco pendant lamps by Kate Stokes.
A pattern of tiles, inspired by the geometric tiling detail of the Sydney Opera House, is a common thread running through the Park Royal interior
Where the foyer is open and glamorously austere, the dining room on the next floor is open and active with plenty of flowing curves to bring vitality to the area. The window portion is dedicated to seating, with an array of dining formations on offer including curtains to create private areas.
From a design perspective, however, the area where food is served is far more interesting. Continuing the surface treatment of the geometric motif, large white and round food presentation podiums inhabit the space as islands in a stream of diners. This strategy is an interesting choice as it is not space efficient, yet the benefits of an actively flowing and interactive means of serving food are manifold. Additionally, between service times, these pods become sculptural, denying any sense of vacated cafeteria that some hotel dining rooms suggest.
The coffee lounge in reception, which pairs locally designed pieces from Koskela and Kate Stokes with classics such as the Thonet Hermann chair
With views to Darling Harbour on one side and city glimpses on the other, the hotel’s sensibility is driven by its location within the city. It has a mainstay of executive guests, but is also well located for shopping and dining, making it a tourist destination of a particular type. Its proximity to the Entertainment Centre also makes it the perfect place for a post- concert stay.
To accommodate these three types of guests, the Hassell team, led by Susan Standring and Matthew Sheargold, envisaged a sanctuary style of guest accommodation not dissimilar to a luxury apartment. To this end, the rooms are kept to a simple and neutral set of tones with textural vibrancy added through the floral-lined carpet.
A residential feel has been adopted in the Club Lounge
Preserving material resources – and also funds – the project team determined to repolish rather than replace the beautiful honey marble cladding the bathrooms. It is a wonderful decision on many levels, not least because it creates a sense of richness that is entirely contemporary, which is reiterated by the wall of glass joining bathroom and bedroom (there is a blind for more modest guests who prefer to shower in private).
Flowing from the individual rooms to hallways, the carpet transitions from a simple line-drawn, floral motif to one that is overlaid with bold protea flowers. This is another example of Hassell’s acumen with the visual effect as experienced on an intimate as well as grand level.
Neutral tones in the rooms create a sanctuary within the urban context
On the one hand, when exiting from the lift or room, the carpet appears as a nice extension of the colours, tones and textures already experienced. However when the guest views the whole through the central atrium, the repeated bold flowers provide an ostentatious and striking effect that is perfectly scaled to the descending progression of floors.
Capping the whole is the Park Royal Club Lounge, where Hassell has further explored the integration of geometric design and motifs of Australian flora and the seaside. An exceedingly beautiful and considered space, the main dining area takes full advantage of views of Darling Harbour, while nooks of lounge suites occupy the side areas.
Pattern and texture have been layered throughout the fitout
The central table provides a standing station with an interestingly contrived surface of geometrically arranged tiles below a set of Mega Bulb pendant lamps. It is this kind of attention to detail that makes Hassell one of the best: while at a glance it is a table with some lights, on closer inspection the tile design and variances become appreciable.
This space has been beautifully crafted – from the absolute perfection with which each tile has been laid, to the very fine nature of the pendant lamps, the perfectly pooling light and the lack of glare from the west-facing window. The selection of ceramics, which add visual intrigue, colour and sculptural form to the interior spaces, draw the same aesthetic cues from the hotel’s harbourside context as the rest of the fitout – and are, as such, testament to Hassell’s ability to achieve a resolved aesthetic that works at both a macro and micro scale.