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The National Hotel by Breathe Architecture

Jeremy McLeod and his team breathe new life into a Melbourne institution.


BY jesse

May 15th, 2012

The National Hotel on Melbourne’s Victoria Street was much in need of a refurb – one that would bring the Victorian-era establishment into a new, modern context in line with its current surroundings.


Designers Breathe Architecture took cues from the hotel’s location in the Chinese quarter of Victoria Street, incorporating a modern Chinese vernacular in which the country is no longer a place of exoticism and mystery, but of a 21st century industrial and economic powerhouse.

The space was stripped right back and divided into five ’provinces’ – the café, booth seating, the opium den, the dining room and the courtyard – presided over by the central bar.



Materials and texture are utilitarian and robust. Recycled timber seats with tarpaulin cushions surround concrete and steel tables; steel cages separate booths from each other.

A decked courtyard is enclosed by walls of recycled bricks, and a repurposed army tent stretched across the area provides shade over banquette seating clad with recycled stair timbers.


It’s another fine example of Breathe’s ’imperfect perfect’ approach, where exposed fittings and raw, honest materials create a distinctive aesthetic – as well as a space with minimal fuss and low energy output.


Air conditioning is non-existent; solar energy is used for the hot water system, and rainwater is collected and used on-site.

The architects call the new National Hotel ’the new republic for the people of Richmond’ – a place for the community to come together in a place that’s ’proud to serve’.

Breathe Architecture

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