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Prahan Hotel

The Sand Hill Road bought the Prahran Hotel in early 2011, and will reopen it after eight months of hefty reconstruction. At the Prahran Hotel, they had city-based architects Techne design the space, utilising concrete irrigation pipes, each about 2.5 metres in diameter, sitting four pipes high.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-02-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x505 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Located in the southern part of Melbourne, this small inner city pub established in 1940, has seen a huge transformation with an additional space added to the back of the Hotel. This clever rethinking of space and structure has effectively turned the pub from a one level local watering-hole into a “futuristic voyeur’s playground” with striking differences between the old and new structures.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-04-Peter-Clarke-Photography-800x1200 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

The star of the design is a series of 17 ½ concrete waterpipes. These concrete culverts dominate the striking street façade. For architect Justin Northrop, the pipes add a lot more than drama to the hotel’s exterior. “Inside you are climbing over the pipes, sitting in them, or on them at various levels. They have a lasting impact on the space.” Guests can sit in booths inside the pipes. “We were looking for a sense of drama and theatricality,” says Northrop.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-05-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x571 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Booths can be seen from the street, and throughout the interior of the hotel. Each booth, that seats up to 12, features leather upholstered banquettes and is lined with recycled spotted gum slats and acoustic absorption mats. “The voyeuristic nature of these pubs is very important, the way the space is connected visually,” says Northrop.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-06-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x511 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Co-owner of the pub, Matt Mullins, says to his knowledge this kind of construction has never been done before. ”We asked Techne for two designs, one normal and one wild, and we went with the wild,” Mullins says. ”The food and drink offering will stick to the Sand Hill Road formula that Mullins describes as ”all about a community pub. Over time our design has evolved but the offering is the same: there’s beers on tap and always a parma and a steak.” It’s a pipe dream come true.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-11-Peter-Clarke-Photography-805x1200 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Design features:

  • There are 17 pipes in total, each 2.25m diameter. The weight of the pipes vary from 2.5 tonnes to 7.4 tonnes each.
  • The pipes idea was an evolution of design thinking that moved from simply being a graphic consideration to a structural and programmatic solution. Collectively, the team quickly realised that we had established a design concept that was quite original and we all channeled our research and development into making it a reality.
  • The standard drainage pipes with customized steel reinforcing and connection points were individually pre-fabricated in a factory in Laverton, transported to site by truck and craned into position. The façade was put together in stages over a few days.
Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-13-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x506 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

  • The pipes are more than just a façade because they are spaces that people occupy as booths for drinking and dining. They are the primary windows of the space giving natural light and outlook from the interior spaces and they provide the defining decorative and graphic motif to the space in a very strong and purposeful way.
  • The central courtyard with its hanging garden elements and Chinese elm which allow the spaces to breathe and give softness through foliage.
  • Guests can choose between three levels; the ground floor mixes polychromatic textured tiles and spotted gum floorboards, with a light-filled courtyard and street views. The courtyard features a striking nine-metre trapezoidal concrete wall, that has a corrugated effect and porthole motifs.
Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-19-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x505 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

  • The natural materials and soft upholstery take the edge of the concrete, steel and glass used in the interior. (Even the banisters are covered in leather for a luxe, surprise element.)
  • The 12-seat VIP area sits atop a giant water pipe, feeling suspended over the space. A key criteria of the design was to ensure that patrons always have a vantage point from wherever they are in the space.  “It’s great for voyeurs,” says Mullins. An exception to the open-plan approach is a sunken seating area, known as ‘the lair’, below stairs for patrons who want to stay under wraps.
  • All the design basics have to be right in terms of comfort and functionality, but architecture has the added bonus of capturing people’s imagination and draws them back over and over again.
Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-18-Peter-Clarke-Photography-800x1200 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Techné Architects:

The Prahran Hotel is a substantial two storey corner pub with a striking streamlined art deco facade. Succeeding the recent interior refurbishment, the new works include a dramatic double height space with a central courtyard to the rear of the venue.

Featuring a facade constructed out of stacked concrete pipes, linked together in a way that enables the patrons to sit within them to view and interact with the venue and its fellow patrons. The steel glazed courtyard cuts through the interior, connecting both levels and allowing ample natural light to flood the space. The design intends to add another unique and captivating venue to the ever evolving Melbourne pub scene.

Prahran-Hotel-By-Techné-Architects-25-Peter-Clarke-Photography-759x506 Prahran Hotel / Techné Architects

© Peter Clarke Photography

Project Data:

Project name: Prahan Hotel
Location: 82 High Street, Prahran, Victoria, 3181, Australia
Coordinates: -37.851477, 144.988501
Type: Adaptive Reuse, Hotel, Lounge / Bar / Restaurant / Night Clubs
Program: Hotel + Pub
Project Area: 550 sqm
Project Year: 2012
Status: Completed
Cost: $2.25 million
Completion Year: May 2013
Visit Prahran Hotel’s website: here


  • 2014 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Bars & Nightclubs – Jury Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Sand Hill Road
Architects: Techné Architects – Level 2, 43 Hardware Lane, Melbourne 3000 VIC, Australia
Project/Design Director: Justin Northrop
Project Architect: Steve McKeag
Architect In Charge: Alex Lake
Project Team: Justin Northrop, Steve McKeag, Alex Lake, Melita Kei, Francois Claassens, Bianca Baldi
Structural Engineer: Parkhill Freeman
Lighting: Light Projects ESD, EnergyLab
Landscaping: Ayus Botanical
Land surveyor: JCA Land Consultants
Building Surveyor: Retro Building Surveyors
Geotechnical Engineer: NSP Geotechnics Pty Ltd
Hydraulic engineering: BRT Consulting Engineers
Acoustic Engineer: Burton Acoustic Group
Draftsperson: Melita Kei, Francois Claassens
Interior Designer: Bianca Baldi
Contractor: Visual Builders
Text Description: © Courtesy of Techné Architects, openjournal, thecoolhunter, Sand Hill Road, goodfood
Images: © Techné Architects, Peter Clarke Photography

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