The Luxury Hotel Group's First Australian Outpost Combines a Historical Past with Modern, Contemporary Design
A beautiful sandstone heritage-listed building greets guests inside as they enter through its grand marble-clad doors into a vast, open foyer filled with art, flora and decadent design.
Welcome to Sydney’s newest luxury hotel, Capella Sydney, setting a new bar for luxury hospitality in the city.
Combining a historical past with modern, contemporary design, the attention to detail and respect to context is the strength of the
Capella Group. With this their first hotel in Australia, the hotel group have brought their signature DNA and approach with them, championing their location from the interior design and art selection, to the numerous story-telling details found throughout the hotel.
Set in the heritage-listed building of the former Department of Education dating back to 1912 (and Department of Agriculture, established in 1938), Make Architects oversaw the renovation (with Singapore developer Pontiac Land Group who won a tender for a 99-year lease of the site). Make also built a 5-floor extension on the buildings roof, seamlessly uniting modernity with its heritage framework. The extension is discreet, and not as visible from the street as the heritage build is, a natural wonder amongst the steel-clad surrounding towers in the commercial district of Sydney. Juxtaposed perfectly between new and old, cultural and commercial, the hotel is a 5-minute walk from the Art Gallery of NSW and its new Sydney Modern Project, and a 10 minute walk to the harbours edge and nearby Sydney Opera House.
With 192 guest rooms and suites, wellness centre and spa, two ground-floor restaurants, bar and lounge, the hotel is a microcosm for locals and international visitors alike. It’s only been a week since opening, and the Capella has attracted both the city’s emerging and established professionals, filling the Aperture lobby place by day, and the Brasserie 1930 restaurant and McRae Bar by night. An edgy mix of modern jazz (think Kamaal Williams) provides the soundtrack amongst the chitter-chatter of guests mixing business and pleasure.
Many marvel at the bespoke kinetic sculpture ‘Meadow’ by Studio Drift, found in the Aperture lobby, and the 7-metre tall self-irrigating green wall championing 9 different species of flora (by Sydney-based Junglefy). Two weeping figs also subtly coexist in the lobby bar, gracefully growing under the vast glass ceiling above, bringing a sense of scale to the vast, open space.
At every corner of the hotel there are original artworks, books and sculptures curated and displayed, overseen by interior designer Simone Haag. Her curation is key to the hotel’s identity, as she’s ensured to support and champion Australian artists in her art selection amongst muted tones of Australiana.
Numerous artworks, ceramic vessels and books found dotted throughout the hotel.
Glass vases by South Australian glass artist Liam Fleming line the back wall of the Aperture lobby, whilst a large-scale artwork by Judy Watson is presented at the entrance.
Rooms feature a variation of photography or artworks by Australian artists, in addition to ceramics and art or architecture books selected by Haag. They’re a cultural activation of sorts, set amongst the expected stellar room design and interiors.
Amenities are surprisingly good, Anthony Metcalfe the Rooms Director wanted only the best for guests, tapping Hæckels for custom bathroom amenities (made in the UK from seaweed and other natural materials). Suites are more than spacious, and depending which floor rooms are on, guests can find entertainment in the opposing business towers, in a classic Hitchcock ‘Rear Window’ way.
Artist Otis Carey has transformed the McRae Bar with his work championing his indigenous heritage, cleverly activating the space through paint and mirror. The bar – named after George McRae the buildings original architect – celebrates the golden age of drinking in its menu and design.
Booked out since opening, the Brasserie 1930 restaurant – helmed by chef and restaurateur Brent Savage – celebrates the best of Australian produce with a brasserie-style approach. Savage is behind some of Sydney‘s key dining and drink destinations (Bentley, Monopole, Yellow and Cirrus) now bringing his winning formula – and sustainable techniques such as curing and preserving – to the Capella.
At the entrance to the wellness spaces on the 6th floor, the Auriga Spa greets guests and guides them to either changing rooms or treatment spaces (personally-tailored for the ultimate indulgent experience).
Further down the corridor, the swimming pool is set in the Department of Education’s former art gallery, championing original heritage details and above, a vast skylight encouraging natural light to flow in, illuminating the space. The swimming pool and its adjoining vitality pools with various water jets is one of the highlights in the hotel. There’s no better way to relax then with some water therapy – a key tradition amongst many cultures – especially accompanied by jets soothing tension and aching muscles. After a session here, the sauna and steam rooms await, with illuminated ice bowls in the corridor to cool down with.
A must for any hotel, the gym has been efficiently designed with the importance of space, light and an extensive offering a key focus.
Kitted out with the latest Technogym equipment, from state-of-the-art treadmills to timeless fitness balls and dumbbells, there is something for everyone here.
Some of the best talent from Sydney’s hospitality scene has been headhunted for the new hotel. The Capella Group’s commitment to impeccable hospitality is world-renowned, rivalling the esteemed Eastern notion of omotenashi. It’s seen as a craft. Here at Capella Sydney, staff hospitality is unmatched, differentiated by their Australian style of ‘no worries’.
General Manager Marc von Armin was engaged to lead the new hotel project when it began construction 7 years ago, due to his stellar work at the Park Hyatt (Sydney, Hong Kong), bringing along his finest staff with him. When speaking to him about the ambitious project, he proudly highlights the Australian design and designers he engaged for this project found throughout the hotel – both in and out of guest view (like the commissioned artist works in staff back room corridors, providing bursts of colour and motivation).
The hotel’s design and curation championing its context is without a doubt the reason for its supremely-received opening.
But the professional, passionate and well-versed staff will ensure to be the lifeblood of the hotels continued success.
24 Loftus Street,
For more Australia destinations, click here.
Text: Monique Kawecki
Images: As credited, Capella Sydney and Champ Magazine©