Finalist 2021

Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street

Bates Smart / M&L Hospitality / Mulitplex / Lovell Chen / Studio Ongarato / Point of View

The new Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street references the glamour of travel and hospitality during the 1930’s.

The Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street hotel is located within the historically important 1931 Equity Chambers building.

The development comprises 244 hotel rooms, including 10 suites; the Luci Restaurant located within the restored grand hall of the heritage building and an internal courtyard; bar; executive club lounge; guest gym; meeting rooms and pre-function space.

Significant additions include six levels over the existing building and a new 16-level tower to the rear.

This project brings a new chapter to a beloved heritage building and makes a notable contribution to the urban renewal and evolving character of this part of Melbourne’s CBD.

Design Brief

The brief focused on creating a high-quality hospitality experience which simultaneously celebrates and showcases the distinctive features of the heritage-listed Equity Chambers building, providing a unique offering within Melbourne’s hotel market.

Inspiration came directly from the heritage building and the era in which it was constructed. As such, the design references the glamour and luxury of the 1930s, the golden age of travel and the Art Deco movement.

The refurbishment of such a significant building allowed the design to tell a story and speaks to both the past and present. Many of the original details such as coffered ceilings, ornate plasterwork, columns, carved timber features including banisters and an ornamental post box, have been restored and beautifully integrated within the sophisticated contemporary design.

Hotel rooms are inspired by glamour of the past with interior detailing such as carpets, upholsteries and bathroom tiles, reinterpreting the decorative details on the heritage façade.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

The project demonstrates a progressive approach to architecture and design by responding to the unique character of the location, creating a more activated precinct and delivering a successful amalgamation between a heritage-listed building and new tower.

The new structure is mindful of the site and has been designed as a respectful backdrop to the original building. The six-level addition is sensitively set back and stitched into the existing structure, without compromising the original design. The tower is set back even further and is unable to be viewed from street level. This lessens the impact and retains the integrity of the heritage building through the provision of visual space.

The tower’s façade on Bourke Street continues the rhythm established by the heritage building, emphasising the verticality of the windows. However, as the tower rises the glazing increases thereby maximising the natural light and capitalising on the impressive views.

One of the challenges faced during the project related to the site context. As the hotel is located along an active main road that hosts a busy tram stop, the hotel’s entrance and porte-cochere was confined to Little Queen Street. However, this challenge was meant with meticulous design. The location of the hotel entrance and porte-cochere along Little Queen Street activates a previously underutilised laneway and delivers a quintessentially Melbourne experience for guests.

A triple height portico with two grand sandstone columns, creates an impressive and prominent entry and is contemporary expression of the entry to the heritage building on Bourke Street. Amazingly, sandstone was able to be sourced from the same quarry as the original building, presenting a tangible connection between the new and old.

The Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street not only met but exceeded the design brief, designing a high-quality hospitality experience, providing a unique offering within Melbourne’s hotel market.

Design Excellence

The Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street comes down to saving—rather than destroying—a significant building and site that has existed in the Melbourne CBD for 90 years. The design team placed significant emphasis on preserving and restoring as much of the original built fabric as was practical. Meticulous restoration of details at all scales—from the exterior façade down to stair bannisters—meant that the use of new materials was reduced, as was the need to source, supply and transport these materials to site. It also reduced the amount of building materials that otherwise would have ended their lifecycle as waste had the building been demolished.

The Hilton Little Queen Street demonstrates how excellent architecture and interior design respond to the unique character and heritage of not only the Equity Chambers building, but also the area around it. The hotel creates a more activated precinct through the power of design, helping contribute to the reinvigoration of Melbourne’s CBD as a place where people want to live, work, visit, and play. This, in turn, makes the Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street essential to improving the livability and culture of the CBD for years to come, which is a goal of Victoria, and sets a new benchmark for design excellence within the state, Australia and internationally.

The user experience was forefront in the designing of the hotel, delivering a hospitality venue that encourages the bringing together of both locals and travellers. Entrance to the Luci restaurant and The Douglas Club is provided through Bourke Street, rather than via the hotel lobby and reception area. This is intentional with the aim of attracting the general public and nearby workers, not just hotel guests and assists in creating an identity separate from the hotel and the Hilton brand.

Design Innovation

The project is a stand-out by the way in which it evokes a story of Melbourne’s past and present, captures the imagination of guests and brings both locals and travellers together.

The restoration provides insight into one of Melbourne’s significant heritage buildings. Constructed during the Great Depression the building draws upon several classic architectural styles, including Art Deco, Neo Classical and Gothic Revival, and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Originally built for the Equity Trustees Company, it was also used for decades by Melbourne’s legal community, but by and large has not been accessed by the general public. The adaptive reuse has transformed the building from private use to public and can now be enjoyed for generations to come.

The team took great care to respect the heritage features, but they were also able to imaginatively impart a glamourous and luxurious contemporary atmosphere.
The insertion of a mezzanine level allows guests at the hotel reception to view the double-height volume of the restaurant and creating a dramatic first impression of the grand space. A feature stair creates connection between levels, with lifts providing additional accessibility.

The user experience was forefront in the designing of the hotel, delivering a hospitality venue that encourages the bringing together of both locals and travellers. Entrance to the Luci restaurant and The Douglas Club is provided through Bourke Street, rather than via the hotel lobby and reception area. This is intentional with the aim of attracting the general public and nearby workers, not just hotel guests and assists in creating an identity separate from the hotel and the Hilton brand.

The development provides insight into Melbourne’s past, evokes the glamour of history and travel, reactivates an area of the CBD, connects with the city’s celebrated laneway culture and provides new premium hospitality venues.

Design Impact

Since opening in early 2021, the Hilton Little Queen Street has helped to boost the recovery of Melbourne’s CBD. Its highly crafted, well resolved design is a major contributor to its popularity as a spot where Melburnians can gather to eat and drink. This same design is also drawing bookings and in turn generating revenue that will help the CBD continue to grow as a destination.

Much of this success stems from the project’s brief and its execution. The brief focused on creating a high-quality hospitality experience which simultaneously celebrates and showcases the distinctive features of the heritage-listed Equity Chambers building, providing a unique offering within Melbourne’s hotel market.

Sustainability at Hilton Little Queen Street comes down to saving—rather than destroying—a significant building and site that has existed in the Melbourne CBD for 90 years. The design team placed significant emphasis on preserving and restoring as much of the original built fabric as was practical. Meticulous restoration of details at all scales—from the exterior façade down to stair bannisters—meant that the use of new materials was reduced, as was the need to source, supply and transport these materials to site. It also reduced the amount of building materials that otherwise would have ended their lifecycle as waste had the building been demolished.

Together, these decisions all have knock-on effects for the environment and Melbourne’s impact on climate change, helping to reduce the project’s overall environmental footprint as compared to a knock down / rebuild hospitality project.

The project promotes Melbourne’s reputation for fine food and dining within a creative and thoughtfully design space. Entrance through the Little Queen Street laneway provides guests with a quintessentially Melbourne experience, which they will continue to encounter throughout their time in the city.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Sustainability at Hilton Little Queen Street comes down to saving—rather than destroying—a significant building and site that has existed in the Melbourne CBD for 90 years. The design team placed significant emphasis on preserving and restoring as much of the original built fabric as was practical. Meticulous restoration of details at all scales—from the exterior façade down to stair bannisters—meant that the use of new materials was reduced, as was the need to source, supply and transport these materials to site. It also reduced the amount of building materials that otherwise would have ended their lifecycle as waste had the building been demolished.

Together, these decisions all have knock-on effects for the environment and Melbourne’s impact on climate change, helping to reduce the project’s overall environmental footprint as compared to a knock down / rebuild hospitality project.

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