Arguably one of Melbourne’s most controversial construction projects has been given final approval, leaving a trail of both dismayed and jubilant responses. The major architectural redevelopment project at the focus of this almost five year long drama is the Windsor Hotel, and its semi-demolition by the Halim Group in early 2013. The project has been marked as one of Victoria’s most prominent in the latest state analysis, and comes with a sizeable price tag.
The $250 million redevelopment will see the refurbishment of the interiors of the building, which was built in 1883. The interior restoration will maximise the amount of rooms available, increasing the capacity from 180 to 300 rooms. The ballroom and other rooms will also be upgraded and redeveloped, with Heritage Victoria approving everything.
In addition to the interiors of the architecturally iconic building, the developers have acquired architectural firm Corker Denton Marshall to construct a rear-abutting 26-storey skyscraper. The tower will stand as a shining example of architectural juxtaposition, which is between the original’s traditional heritage façade and the new building’s ultra modern metallic exterior.
This skyscraper building has raised many an eyebrow as it far outreaches original height guidelines for the area.
The final section of the project’s work is the demolition of the original 1960′s building on the corner of Spring and Bourke streets. This will be replaced by a cube-like structure that shares the same juxtaposing nature of the skyscraper, which both huddle round the grand old building in striking comparison.
While opposition to the project have labeled it a cultural atrocity, with actor Geoffrey Rush declaring it similar to “the bombing of Dresden” to the Sydney Morning Herald, the developers ardently defend their project as a reclamation of the heritage building, rather than the destruction of it.
“The National Trust has been campaigning to ‘save the Windsor’,” says Adipoetra Halim one of the Halim Group’s directors, “I suppose that is what we are trying to do, we are trying to restore the Windsor’s grandeur.”
So the question stands: can we truly stand in the way of urban progress if it is what is deemed ‘best’ for our rich heritage listed areas? In bringing these old building’s back to life and back into use, we are technically, restoring them, rather than leaving them to decay. There is a fine line between restoring and ruining a much loved building, and however nervous this may make fans of the Windsor Hotel, the true extent of the success of the redevelopment will only be apparent upon its completion.