Transforming a heritage building into a luxury 6-star hotel

3 October 2023​

Built has delivered Capella for client Pontiac Land Group, transforming a historic, heritage sandstone building into a 6-star luxury hotel. Designed by Make Architects, the hotel is located at the corner of Bridge and Loftus streets, within the former Department of Education Building at what was once known as the Sandstones Precinct.

The Edwardian baroque-style building was originally designed by colonial architect George McRae, who also created Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. It was built in two stages, the first completed in 1912 and the second in 1938.

Pontiac Land Group purchased the building from the NSW government in 2015 for $35 million, with a commitment to spend $300 million refurbishing the building as a hotel in consultation with the Heritage Council of NSW.

Structured in two phases, Built was engaged initially under a collaborative, early involvement contract to de-risk the first stage incorporating the Education Building before commencing construction in early-2018.

The methodology incorporated innovative and meticulous planning to preserve the heritage of the building, which spotlighted 14 features of exceptioal heritage significance. These include the external sandstone façade, marble entrance steps, original steel windows, the Level 7 gallery and the roof top sky lanterns.

Refurbishing this building was a mammoth task for our construction team, and involved completely gutting the original structure, while maintaining its heritage features and restoring the building to its former glory. Our team drew on our expert capabilities in the heritage sector to navigate many of the complex problems we faced during pre-planning and construction.

Our methodology included developing a temporary steel structure and significant underpinning works using 300 tonnes of steel to retain the heritage façade in order to enable demolition and excavation works. The façade retention steel was woven through the structure, connecting to the existing building fabric.

An archaeological dig was conducted before works began, uncovering a number of convict-era artefacts and markings. Built partnered with heritage specialist trades to restore many historic elements to their original conditions, including the heritage façade, window and roof lanterns.

We also undertook remediation of vast amounts of hazardous materials, while continuing to ensure the protection of existing heritage building fabric. Earthworks were carried out and each level of the heritage building was then infilled.

A modern twist was added to the sandstone façade with the addition of a four-storey extension on top of the building, clad in matte aluminium alloy, elevating the hotel from seven storeys to 11.

Our long history working in the luxury hotel refurbishment and fitout space also contributed to our ability to produce quality craftmanship and a high-end product. The completed hotel now includes a ground-level reception, bars, and dining areas, 192 new guestrooms, an impressive 20m-long internal pool, spa and gym facilities, ballroom and event rooms, roof terraces and new glass façade elements.

“This has been a once in a lifetime project to restore and give new life to one of Sydney’s most important heritage buildings,” said Brett Mason, CEO and Managing Director at Built. “The project showcases Australian ingenuity, in the construction and craftsmanship that has gone into it, and we’re very proud and grateful to Pontiac, Capella Group and Essence for entrusting us to bring their vision to life for a world-class luxury hotel for Sydney.”

“Pontiac Land has always been passionate about creating meaningful developments that contribute and help shape their communities. Capella Sydney was an ideal opportunity for us to sensitively repurpose this culturally significant landmark in the heart of downtown Sydney and transform it into a more public offering as a leading luxury hotel for everyone to be able to experience,” David Tsang, Pontiac Land Group CEO told Concrete Playground.

Built’s capabilities in adaptive reuse enabled us to navigate through the complexities associated with reinvigorating one of Sydney’s long-forgotten buildings into modern-day accommodation, offering Capella’s guests all the comforts and more, expected from a luxury hotel.

We have since gone on to win the contract for the neighbouring Lands Building within the former Sandstones Precinct. This building, also owned by Pontiac Land Group, will become an extension of Capella, housing the hotel’s amenities, services and facilities.


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