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The Beaumaris Pavilion is an important landmark on the suburban coastline of Melbourne. Affectionately known as the 'Bowie', it's been the favoured meeting point for the locals and those winding around Beach Road. However, the Sunday afternoon drives down to Mentone beach would have been spoilt by the Bowie's neglect over the decades.
On the once proud, ornate Victorian building, changing owners had taken their toll, Bits were added and other parts were taken away. "When we first saw the building, it was little more than a cheesy carpeted function centre, where the locals would play bingo," says architect Kathryn Robson, of Chris Connell Design. When designer Chris Connell first inspected the building, it looked more like a bombsite than a place to leisurely sip tea by the sea. "Everything had been ripped out. The owners thought they could just work out a scheme as they moved through the building," Connell says. When Connell and his team moved in to assess the damage, it was already too late for a formal brief. "It really became a design and construct situation. I would spend one day explaining the idea to the builder, Angelo Cannizzaro, and to my amazement, the next day it was done. Angelo is one of those rare builders who understand design and can easily interpret every detail," says Connell. "It's hard to believe that the whole renovation took just over three months."
One of the first things to be talked through with Cannizzaro was the removal of the timber-framed windows in what is now the restaurant area. While the restaurant is an adjunct to the original building, it is ideally placed to appreciate the foreshore with its gnarled ti trees. As the timber frames were substituted for the continuous panes of toughened glass, both the view and the light expanded dramatically. However, instead of burst of light and views throughout the entire space of tl restaurant, the area was carefully modulated with the timber batten screens acting as a veil. The views and the spaces a more intimate as a result. Like the parchment pendant light made by Ism Objects, there is a subtle glow throughout the restaurant. Even though the building had been extensive worked over by previous owners, there were heritage control "Originally we were going to strip the interior, but we we required to retain the original pillars that lined the facade Connell says, Now part of the interior space, the pillars new timber batten screen wall, between the bar and the restaurant.
Elements from the more recent past appear on the ceiling the elevated dining area in the restaurant. The pedorated acoustic tiles used on the ceiling in the Fifties were simply painted white. In contrast to the white ceilings, Connell used limited palette of colour - a dulled off green, a burnt orange and a mustard colour - for the cafe area. Many buildings that come within a whiff of the sea are automatically treated to coat of turquoise and sand-coloured paint. However, for the Beaumaris Pavilion, more earthy tones were used. "it's on th coast and it seemed appropriate to follow the more natural an earthy instinct. There's enough aqua and peach-coloured pink down the entire Beach Road," says Robson, pointing out th predominant colour schemes of homes along the stretch.
In order to link the various spaces, which include the more formal restaurant, the bar, the cafe and the large function room, Connell used a continuous band of materials. Carrara marble was used for the bars (both the wine bar and the cafe) and the slatted timber was used to line the wine bar. Ever the reception counter in the restaurant, which appears as a timberslatted cube, could almost roll across the polished concrete floors.
While the spaces are relatively simple, the detail continually draws in the eye. The green feature wall extends to the bar area. However, the colour has been cleverIy layered with a wall unit for wine storage. With floor to ceiling shelves of wine bottles, the walls are seen as more than blocks of colour. In the bar area, Connell included sufficient room for a couple of couches and a low-slung table. "The idea is to encourage people to have a drink away from their tables, either before sitting or afterwards. The spaces aren't supposed to be rigid," says Robson.
The doormat at the entrance, which is built into the concrete floor, is as over scaled as the large one-metre wide pendant light (also by Ism Objects). "The elements are quite over scaled. It's about drawing people into the space before they head off into the various spaces," Connell says. The cafe, which also doubles as a place to meet friends before moving into the restaurant, looks over the kerb-side patio where tables and chairs have been set up. The only element to pierce the view towards the sea is the skeletal banquette seating designed by Connell. The fireplaces, which were more 1950s than Victorian, were simply squared up and lined with painted metal. Built-in boxes for wood storage, also made of metal, add a new layer to the interior.
The function room, which can hold up to 200 people, was completely remodelled by Connell, The glass cathedral ceiling brought in sufficient light. However, according to Connell, it also provided clear views of the leaves and debris that found its way onto the roof. While the harsh light might be ideal for a summerhouse, for a function room, where mood was important, the light was inappropriate. As a solution, Connell designed a false ceiling. Lined with acoustic fibre, the perforated slotted ceiling is reminiscent of I950s design. With flexibilty in mind, doors can be retracted or closed to accommodate the numbers. The bank of green doors that divides the cafe from the function room can be removed to increase the guest list, Likewise, the large concertina doors in the cafe area can be left open or closed depending on the functions at hand. "One of the initial problems with the function room was that it was on three different levels, It wasn't going to work on so many levels," Robson says. With so many decisions that had to be made quickly, it's commendable that the Beaurnaris Pavilion reads as one continuous design. As Connell says, "a lot of it had to do with the clients. They're particularly design -conscious and they came up with some interesting ideas of their own. We'd talk about a certain detail and withCannizzaro's skills it was there for us to see the next day, "