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Now you see it, now you don’t: The Fantauzzo by SJB

SJB has designed The Fantauzzo hotel with a tonal, fractal façade that visually recedes into its natural and manmade surroundings.

The Fantauzzo, designed by SJB, is the newest hotel from Art Series Hotels. Named for Australian artist Vincent Fantauzzo, the interior of the hotel is a dark and sophisticated environment that draws attention to Vincent’s work, while the exterior has a tonal, fractal façade to visually recede into its natural and manmade surroundings. “We wanted to create a building as a bold piece of architecture that is also a camouflaged backdrop to the precinct,” says SJB Director of Architecture Tristan Wong.

The Fantauzzo is the eighth property of Art Series Hotels and part of the revitalisation of the historic Howard Smith Wharves precinct. Designed to integrate with the natural and built environment, The Fantauzzo nestles against a rocky cliff face beneath the Story Bridge in Brisbane, behind heritage buildings along the waterfront and in close proximity to Brisbane River. “The site provided many great cues for the design and concept of the architecture: the impressive Story Bridge and the undulating, raw cliff face forming the backdrop to the site,” says Tristan. “The building’s design marries these two powerful natural and manmade structures through a series of geometric, fractal-like forms that speak to the bridge’s diagonal truss system and the cliff’s craggy, earthy-toned surfaces.” 

The contemporary façade is an abstract representation of the immediate environment. SJB mapped the muted earth tones of the cliff face and vegetation onto the façade of the building, cladding it in repeated, diagonal forms that draw their geometries from the steel construction of the Story Bridge. This complex exterior provides an ever-changing façade that camouflages the six-storey, 166-suite hotel within its surroundings, with landscaping and overhanging vines to complement the cliff’s natural foliage.

The interior also marries its manmade and natural settings, with black terrazzo flooring, black concrete ceiling and luxurious emerald-coloured accents. “The toughness of the concrete aesthetic relates back to the industrial nature of the bridge and warehouses, and the emerald green touches are a nod to the vegetation on the cliffs,” says SJB Director of Interior Design Andrew Parr.

While the dark and moody palette creates a cave-like feel, the rear of the hotel has double-height windows that bring sunlight into the lobby and guest suites and provide a dramatic view of the cliff face, as if it is part of the architecture.

These dark tones and muted finishes also create a counterpoint to Vincent’s portraits displayed throughout the hotel, challenging the conventional white walls of traditional art galleries. “This highly abstracted design allowed Vincent Fantauzzo’s work to contrast powerfully with the architecture, and the cave-like quality of internal spaces provided a further counterpoint and juxtaposition to Fantauzzo’s work,” says Tristan.

Photography by Tom Blachford.

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