W Brisbane opened recently, marking the re-entry of the playfully luxurious international hotel brand into Australia. Sitting on the banks of the Brisbane River, the hotel design took inspiration from the site with its overarching theme A River Dreaming developed by interior designer Nic Graham and Associates in collaboration with the multidisciplinary design studio Studio Ongarato.
“Our first narrative-led hotel was for the W Hong Kong back in 2010. Using narrative at that time was uncommon. It successfully injected greater vibrancy into the brand and rewrote the rulebook for narrative-led hotel design. It offers a world within a world for experience hunters but ultimately it aims to engage, delight and transport,” says Studio Ongarato co-founder Fabio Ongarato.
And delight it certainly does, if the Instagram-ometer is anything to go by where the hotel spaces have received saturation coverage of late. “For W Brisbane we looked at the W brand DNA, which is bold, witty and shows a lust for life,” says Fabio.
“It’s a visual feast – gone are the beige and bull-nosed interiors of the past; design is at every corner. When it came to approaching W Brisbane, the W DNA was easy to weave in with the free and easy Aussie attitude. We’ve embraced colour, colonial heritage, modernity, ethnic and indigenous roots, a Brisvegas attitude and a sense of humour,” says Nic Graham.
A River Dreaming pays respect to the Dreaming of the Turrbal people, which sees the river as the giver of life. “The river banks and swamps supported many communities, including the early settlers, becoming the source of life and the place of many gatherings. The main idea behind the design was to create a place on the riverbank where gatherings will form, and city stories and legends will be created,” says Nic.
“The ebbs and flows of the Brisbane River are evident in the curved designed features, namely in the bar and restaurant joinery and even subtly in the ballroom carpet. The river reeds, tidal markers, earthy river banks and the ambient life that it supports, are all evident in the choice of materials and finishes, along with the staircase being lined in reeds and sticks. These earthy, somewhat native and organic features that celebrate the physical location, are in contrast with the W brand story that taps into the heartbeat of the city,” says Nic.
As for his favourite part, Nic cites the pool area. “I’m thrilled with the pool area as we designed a very bold ceiling and pool interior to complement its undercover location – the mix of bold colours and patterns in the public spaces is our signature style,” says Nic.
The first five star hotel to open in Brisbane in 20 years, W Brisbane features 312 rooms with views over South Bank and west towards Mount Coot-tha, as well as dining, bar, pool, spa and yoga facilities. The hotel opened in June, with others scheduled to open in Melbourne and Sydney over the next two years.