• Looks can be Deceptive

    28 January 2016

    The choice to open the Como Hotels and Resorts first Australian property in city of Perth may seem obtuse, but a look at the heritage behind the hotel tells a high-end tale.


    London, Miami Beach, Bangkok… Perth? At first glance, the newest home for a design-driven, high-end Como Hotels and Resorts outlet seems incongruous. That is until the scale and scope of the hotel’s premises is fully understood.


    A rejuvenated heritage building at the heart of Australia’s westernmost capital city is home to the newest Como property. The 140-year old building reflects the characteristics of the neo-Renaissance style. There’s a façade of Roman columns and bold, cantilevered balconies that signify this as a landmark. Grand arches open onto hallways and communal areas with touches of revivalist “temple” architecture.

    The 48room contemporary luxury hotel occupies the former State Buildings, a 16,000 square metre complex that has served variously as the first seat of government in Western Australia, a post office, land titles office and treasury.

    For a building that had been heritage listed since 1973 and lay empty for almost two decades before its A$110 million refurbishment, its repurposing as an “urban” hotel is remarkably sympathetic. The restoration returned 95 percent of the buildings to their 19th century origins, including the re-installation of dormer windows and Victorian roofs finished with copper trim. Replacement slates were imported from North Wales.

    The meticulous work was overseen by Kerry Hill Architects, a practice with its roots in Perth and whose principal has made a significant contribution to the architectural scene in Singapore. In 2006, Hill was awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, and in 2010 the Singapore President’s Design Award for Designer of the Year.


    Hill’s remit encompassed the redevelopment of the city’s Cathedral Square, a precinct of Colonial-era buildings rich in significance, and the exteriors and interiors of the Como The Treasury, Perth.

    “Heritage is the art of saving what is useful and beautiful but also updating it for modern use,” says Terry Fripp, an associate at Kerry Hill Architects. It’s a theory put to good use throughout the building that now houses the hotel. The hotel may be the anchor tenant, but the State Buildings complex is home to a library, restaurants, an enoteca, a craft beer bar, barber shop, and a chocolatier.

    Where the building’s past could not offer a signpost to its future use, Hill looked to the future and introduced steel and glass to create a clear delineation between the heritage building and its current use. The interiors are otherwise subtle and contemporary.

    The hotel’s rooms are spread over four floors. Each is exceptionally large – particularly so by Asian standards – and retains its own unique volume, as the building determines. The colours are muted, the wood finishes treated by lime, with leather and bronze highlights.


    COMO The Treasury opened in October and became the first Australian property for the Singapore-based group, founded by Christina Ong, who with husband Ong Beng Seng is the billionaire owner of a number of businesses in London’s Bond Street.

    The company’s portfolio is hand-picked and individually curated. It currently includes The Halkin by COMO in London; three Metropolitan by COMO hotels in London, Bangkok and Miami Beach; Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos, Cocoa Island by COMO; and Maalifushi by COMO in the Maldives.

    It’s likely that Ong’s Como hotel will enjoy its position as the city’s premier accommodation for only a short while with Perth soon to welcome properties from the Ritz-Carlton, Starwood and Westin over the next two years. To coin the work of Conde Naste Traveler magazine, Perth is “remote, beachy and surprisingly hip”. It also has some quite nice designer-inspired accommodation.


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