The historic West Block buildings in front of new Parliament House will be restored and re-purposed to a luxury hotel following Geocon’s $6.25 million acquisition of the site from the Commonwealth. Geocon owns and operates the Abode Group of hotels.
Designed by architect John Smith Murdoch, West Block was one of the earliest buildings erected in the Parliamentary Triangle of the ‘new Federal Capital’, and opened for government use in 1927. Part of the site, known as The Dugout, was a World War II bomb shelter, which was used to code and decode messages between Australian prime minister John Curtin and British prime minister Winston Churchill.
“This new hotel will celebrate the heritage aspects of the buildings, inside and out, and, for the first time, open up these historic structures to the public,” Geocon Managing Director Nick Georgalis said.
“Given its location and history, this hotel has the potential to be talked about all over the world, to be one of those ‘must-see’ icons when people visit Australia’s national capital, like Raffles in Singapore or the George V in Paris.
“We haven’t been inside The Dugout yet, and we can’t wait to get in there to see what sort of amazing atmosphere it has, potentially for a bar or other purpose that embraces and shares its historic features with visitors.”
Geocon is renowned for undertaking a sympathetic approach to historic buildings and re-purposed Juliana House, a 1970s government office block in Woden ACT, into Australia’s first green star-rated hotel, and an award-winning sustainability project. Fender Katsalidis, the architects behind Hobart’s MONA and Canberra’s NewActon precinct, will design the new hotel.
“I want to dispel the concerns of those worried about the future of these buildings,” said Mr Georgalis. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to create another unique property which both preserves and celebrates important aspects of Canberra’s early history, and we take this responsibility very seriously. We also want Australians – the original owners of this property – to have maximum opportunity to enjoy its history and significance, as they are able to do with the re-purposed Old Parliament House.”