Nonda Katsalidis AM, Founding Partner of renowned architecture firm Fender Katsalidis, is celebrated for lighting up the Melbourne city skyline with landmark Australian buildings including the Eureka Tower and more recently Australia 108. In this Q&A feature, Nonda discusses his latest waterfront project on the north bank of Melbourne’s Yarra, Seafarers, and how it embodies a new era of luxury apartment living as Australia’s first 1 Hotel and Melbourne’s first hotel branded residence.
What was unique about Seafarers compared with other projects you’ve designed, and where did the inspiration come from?
There were two things that told me it had the makings of something special. A lot of heritage retention work has been done to the Goods Shed and the Malcolm Moore crane to make this project successful, and I’m a big fan of keeping our industrial heritage alive and commemorating these tough, interesting artefacts from Melbourne’s old wharf.
Secondly, it was the huge frontage on the Yarra. The industrial aspect is relevant in the way we integrated the sheds into the new design, but we really tried to honour the site’s location and natural history too. We designed the residential buildings to have a playful facade that appears to have ripples on the surface. They reference how the wind interacts with the surface of the water on the nearby river, and with the landscaped area adjacent to it, it’s an interesting site.
What attracted you to the Seafarers project?
Over the years I have developed a personal relationship with Clement Lee and his family. Finding great project partners and working with people you trust is critical, and I have found that in Riverlee. I very much enjoy my interaction with them and they like working with me, so over the last decade, I have looked after many of their residential projects, which is great.
Seafarers will be Melbourne’s first international hotel-branded residence. What interests you about that?
I stayed at the 1 Hotel near Central Park in New York, and visited another in Brooklyn. They are really fun hotels, with grainy, gritty interiors that use lots of different materials, and that was a huge factor in getting involved in the project. I just love the idea of the hotel being incorporated into the residence. In residential buildings, there are only so many facilities you can put in, like swimming pools, gyms, theatres and perhaps some dining facilities, but you’re not going to get the service a hotel provides. In that sense, Seafarers is a rarity and I think it represents the future of luxury apartment living.
Why have you decided to purchase an apartment in Seafarers?
I’ve got a farm I spend a lot of time at, so I come and go from the city a lot. As a city pad, Seafarers is just so convenient. It’s in a great location, with easy access to the major roads, and it’s close to Southbank and the city. I wanted to have a residence at Seafarers up my sleeve in case we decide to downscale our current Melbourne home.
Meanwhile, I think it will really hold its value and be easy to rent because of the service and amenities. It’s very versatile. But above all, I just think I wanted to be a part of a great project and enjoy the new services on offer.
Seafarers is located on an historic site. What do you think the future of the North Bank precinct is?
Seafarers will be built on one of the last sites in the precinct, but I think the hotel will be an anchor to the whole northern shore. With a hotel comes restaurants and bars and the general public, so it will just feel more vibrant and connected.