Newmarket Hotel

For the Newmarket Hotel in Melbourne, Six Degrees has created a functional, inviting venue, complete with highly considered spatial planning and details cherrypicked from history.

A courtyard/beer garden connects the old building with the new.

A courtyard/beer garden connects the old building with the new.

Image: Greg Elms

The job tells you what it needs,” says the design architect of the Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda. Not that Mark Healy needs to be told: the firm he co-directs is a veteran at hospitality design. The site for the new pub was long and skinny. “I like a venue where you can wander about a bit,” says Healy, so the challenge was to create paths, to make it feel open, to belie its narrow site. The threshold to the street is the facade of the old Newmarket pub that the council wanted to keep. Rather than integrate the new building with the old pub, it sits behind, creating a transitional courtyard space, and turning the propped-up facade into a pretty ruin, an architectural curiosity. It would be wrong to assume that the architect lacked sympathy for history in the act of demolishing the rest of the old pub. On the contrary, Six Degrees, in its mastery of hospitality venues, has become a master of history, subtly layering past and present in working with existing spaces.

But the firm’s vision of history is not narrowly focused on one hundred years ago. It encompasses, for example, an interest in 1970s fake timber Laminex. The tables in the front bar, just as you walk in, are finished with this man-made material. (They had some difficulty sourcing it.) During the demolition, a fragment of kitsch 1950s figurative wallpaper was found behind a wall panel in the old front bar. They carefully documented it and made an exact reproduction, and the new digital print runs the length of one wall. The central bar is lined with bricks – not bricks from the demolition, but bricks that refer to the broader St Kilda context. “No-one will get that,” admits Healy, “but it’s not about anyone getting it; it’s just where stuff comes from. It’s about St Kilda’s history, those kind of nicotine-stained interiors.”

Concrete arches in the main dining space refer to fifteenth-century Italy.

Concrete arches in the main dining space refer to fifteenth-century Italy.

Image: Greg Elms

In order to create zones and a diversity of spaces within the linear building, different materials and spatial dividers are employed. Healy is keen to look after the psychological needs of the shy and the extroverted, of the large groups and the small. You can creep into the bar undetected, or there is a triumphal way; there are things to lean against, spaces in which to sit alone while you wait for your mates to arrive. One delineated zone is the restaurant table area. To create intimacy, a colonnade is introduced between the tables. The colonnade is made from arches of raw precast concrete. It feels a bit Islamic as we sit there eating Spanish tapas, but Healy reveals a surprisingly specific architectural reference. “Do you know the Foundling Hospital?” he asks. Any student of architecture will remember this key early Renaissance work by Filippo Brunelleschi in fifteenth-century Florence. This makes sense of the circular holes either side of the arches, referring to Brunelleschi’s roundels. “My work is getting more and more ancient,” he jokes. This is the point at which Healy explains that the job tells you what it needs. “It’s not as if you say to yourself ‘let’s put a hypostyle hall in the next job!’ ” (A hypostyle hall is one that is filled with columns, invented by the ancient Egyptians.) Which brings us to the little gold stars painted on the night-sky-blue ceiling: “Have you ever been to Egypt?” Healy asks …

A long dining table for larger groups is situated at the rear.

A long dining table for larger groups is situated at the rear.

Image: Greg Elms

So: we have a one-hundred-year-old facade, a twenty-first-century rational building behind it that contains reproduction 1950s wallpaper, reproduction nineteenth-century pressed metal ceilings, reproduction 1970s Laminex, references to fifteenth century Renaissance Florence and the funerary architecture of thirteenth-century BC Egypt. “There’s a ton of stuff. All those layers, the program, people-watching, resolving the rubbish collection – all that stuff just adds up and you try to do it in a way that feels like a whole. It doesn’t need to be a big white box to be a unified thing,” says Healy. Bad casino furniture (Healy’s words), cheap concrete arches, compact fluorescent lighting inside PVC pipes hanging from the ceiling, stained glass, screening devices and some ancient precedents – these make up a comfortable, low-key unity, Six Degrees style.

Products and materials

Concrete; Classic Ceramics tiles; Custom wallpaper; Locker Group perforated metal; Dulux paint.
Compressed fibre cement sheet; Pressed metal.
Steel frames.
Concrete; Brintons carpet; Hardwood timber floorboards; Altro safety vinyl.
Recycled brick to bar from Paddy’s Bricks; Stainless steel bar; Formply joinery; Classic Ceramics travertine benchtops; Big River Timbers Armourply panels.
Lampada Custom pendant clusters; Masson for Light general lighting; Pendants supplied by customer.
Caroma fittings.


Design practice
Six Degrees Architects
Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Project Team
Mark Healy, Michael Frazzetto, Mia Hutson, Dan Butler, Robyn Ho
Accessibility consultant Davis Langdon (formerly Blythe Sanderson Group) Melbourne
Acoustics Marshall Day Acoustics
Builder Tate Constructions
Building surveyor Building Strategies
Services NJM Design
Structural Keith Long and Associates
Site Details
Location 34 Inkerman Street,  St Kilda,  Melbourne,  Vic,  Australia
Site type Suburban
Project Details
Status Built
Category Hospitality, Interiors
Client name Newmarket Hotel
Website Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda



Published online: 3 Dec 2011
Words: Tobias Horrocks
Images: Greg Elms


Artichoke, September 2011

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