Design as the glue to the multi-faceted Seafarers

From incorporating history to drawing on the unique riverfront setting, Nicky Drobis, director at Fender Katsalidis, discusses the innate ability to understand site context with sympathetic architectural solutions and her journey in the design of Seafarers.

What was the brief for Seafarers from Riverlee?

The brief was to design Melbourne’s most dynamic mixed-use precinct, which restored and celebrated the site’s heritage as the heart of the development. The goal was to achieve true diversity within the building with entertainment, health, and wellbeing, as well as luxury hotel accommodation.

What were the key priorities?

The careful retention and restoration of the heritage-listed Goods Shed No. 5 and the Malcolm Moore Electric Crane were key to celebrating Melbourne and the Yarra River’s industrial heritage. Looking at it holistically, we focused on an environmentally sustainable design that incorporated key initiatives for a development of this scale. Finally, we wanted to create enchanting and intriguing journeys through unique building experiences for hotel visitors and residents.

Was the string of amenities high on the priority list?

A focus on health and wellbeing was fundamental in the design process of the building. We have designed numerous wellness spaces which directly engage with the natural environment and incorporate living green, in addition to the landscaped terrace spaces.

What was the biggest challenge in conceiving the design?

As much as a mixed-use development can be a challenge, this adds increased complexity, requiring a higher level of design thinking and execution. The numerous challenges of design and construction start with the heritage shed, then work through those associated with the different uses.

Was it difficult to combine the residential apartment element with the hotel space?

There are great synergies afforded by residents being able to utilise all the food and beverage offerings provided by the hotel. However, we’ve worked carefully to create independent spaces for residents to provide them with a sense of exclusivity and privacy within the building.

Where did you draw inspiration from for the building?

The components of the building’s form are derived from their uses and are defined as such externally. Most visibly, the heritage shed is retained, restored and celebrated at the base of the tower with the next seven levels being hotel accommodation. Above that, reading quite distinctly, we have the apartment levels with a highly articulated floorplan edge, which enables the façade glazing to reflect light in a way that is reminiscent of the movement of water.

What part of the design are you most proud of/what are you most looking forward to seeing?

We are eagerly looking forward to how the building will function, fostering a vibrant series of uses for residents, guests and visitors. We are proud of how it celebrates an important part of Melbourne’s heritage in its retention of the shed, and thus its distinctive reflection of uses as a former industrial site.