Windsor Hotel redevelopmentPosted: March 20, 2010
I’m hard pressed to see what opponents are concerned about with the proposed Windsor Hotel redevelopment. It conforms with the Planning Scheme, it was recommended by the panel and it’s supported by Heritage Victoria (with conditions).
The panel says the redevelopment is necessary for the continued viability and restoration of the historically and architecturally valuable parts of the hotel. It will add more hotel rooms to the city centre, which is good for business and tourism and therefore for jobs and living standards.
I know the Windsor pretty well. I’ve stayed there on business quite a few times over the years and it was once my local watering hotel. I can say from first-hand experience that the rooms in the faux extension on the corner of Bourke and Spring streets are underwhelming.
The loss of the extension will surely be mourned by few. The proposed replacement building (which Heritage Victoria says cannot be as high as shown in the accompanying photograph) is interesting architecturally with some hints to my eye of Fed Square. I’d like to see some more greenery on the roof to underline its sustainability credentials but I still like it.
It appears that it will be separated from the historic part of the hotel by a laneway or something similar – thereby announcing that it is separate physically as well as stylistically – whereas the existing extension shamelessly and embarrassingly seeks to look like a part of the original building.
And what is all the fuss about the height of the tower? It’s only 26 floors. The Eureka Tower is 91 floors – that’s a tower! This is after all the CBD of a city of four million people. It’s not a residential precinct like East Melbourne or Craigieburn and it’s not Ballarat or Bendigo.
The tower is set well back from the facade of the original hotel as indeed it should be. The Windsor is a building that in any event makes its contribution to the streetscape at street level. Much of its value historically and architecturally is its interior. I doubt anyone will notice the tower at the back once it’s built.
Historic buildings have commonly been integrated with hotels as a means of assisting with their preservation and maintenance. This mutually beneficial relationship also provides the public with an opportunity to experience the interiors of valuable old buildings. Compared to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney, which essentially retained just the facade of the old Treasury building, the Windsor is outstanding.
The political and planning systems have to show some flexibility so that we don’t lose any more valuable buildings like these superb old Melbourne hotels. Some compromises will also be necessary so we don’t lose outstanding new buildings either – we don’t need another episode like the disgraceful hobbling of the western shard of Federation Square in the name of heritage protection.