'Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!'
—Edna St Vincent Millay
We’re building a hotel that might be called HoMo (Hotel Mona). Or it might not be. We’ll update you on that soon. Or we might not, depending on whether or not we want to virtue signal.
What of the design? Unlike Mona, the hotel will shout instead of whisper. Mona was never meant to be monumental—but the hotel is different. It’s our beacon, our… shopping trolley? Or Golden Gate Bridge?
The design cycled through many iterations over many years, emerging through the collective efforts of star-chitect Nonda Katsalidis, David Walsh and others. ‘We started with an inverted suspension bridge,’ says DW, 'but then the value engineers got at it. Now it's just a shopping trolley that looks a bit like an inverted suspension bridge. The horizontal distance from the land to the point is 53 metres,’ he adds. ‘It’s not modest.’
They always wanted to cantilever over the water to make the most of the river views. A buildable and affordable solution, however, did not present itself right away—not until they tackled another problem, which was how to incorporate a theatre into the hotel complex.
So, ordinarily, theatres (or good ones at least) are built like a room within a room, with the inner room decoupled from the outer, to avoid the transmission of noise in both directions. That’s expensive, and they thought they would have to keep the theatre separate from the hotel. That’s when someone suggested suspending the hotel from above—making a cantilever buildable, and also acoustically isolating the theatre from below. ‘It’s the best idea anyone has ever had,’ says Walshie, ‘and the most amazing part is, it didn’t come from me.’
The theatre will hold 1075 seated patrons. The reason for this number is that it is greater than the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra concert hall can hold—‘if our theatre were smaller,’ says David, ‘the TSO would never play here.’ (Addendum: the TSO tells me they would still play even if our theatre was smaller, provided we went easy on them rent wise).
The hotel will be five-star, and have 172 rooms, looking towards Kunanyi (Mt Wellington), or up the river towards Claremont and Otago Bay. There will be a theatre, spa centre, outdoor concert stage and library, as well as conference and auditorium facilities, and roughly a million new art works (exaggeration). Some of the art will be quite good. We are even working on some super-duper, ‘special experience’ rooms with some really-quite-good artists.
Walshie is particularly excited about the new library, which will be spread over three levels and will house his large and growing nerd fest of bibliophilic paraphernalia, courtesy of total lightweights like Einstein, Newton, Darwin and Dickens, as well as the hand drawn works of Donald Friend (who, quite frankly, sounds like an awful human being), and one of the earliest depictions of Australia by celebrated cartographer Joan Blaeu.
Hotel access will be mainly via the water, on Venice-style motoscafi ferries dreamed up in collaboration with Mona’s ferry operators, Navigators. There will be another ferry, and a boardwalk will link the ferry jetty to the main road, increasing pedestrian and bicycle access to the foreshore.
All this costs time and money, of course—we don’t really know when it will open, but let’s say (just for the fun of it) the eleventh anniversary of Mona’s opening in 2011. Nor do we know who is going to pay for it. ‘This is a $300 million project,’ says David, rummaging hopefully in his pockets. ‘I don’t have that at the moment but fingers crossed I’ll manage to scrape something together.’
Images courtesy of Fender Katsalidis Architects