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Published March 23rd 2016
Explore Modern Architecture & Monster Bar Chic
The Nishi Building is located in the NewActon Cultural Precinct, just minutes from Canberra's CBD. If you haven't visited the NewActon precinct before, it is modern, edgy and architecturally unique area to explore. NewActon was constructed in 2008 and is a self contained precinct of the city that incorporates landscaped gardens, sculpture, retail outlets, hotel accommodation, restaurants, cinemas, residential and commercial spaces - all with the same unique style. Wander down the laneways and be surprised by large scale sculptures and quirky street art. If, like me, you enjoy the unusual and creative, then this area is sure to delight. Towering over the precinct is the Nishi Building - look up and appreciate this architectural wonder, with timber features softening the modern fašade.
The Nishi Building was completed in 2012 and designed by internationally renowned architects Fender Katsalidis and Arup, alongside sustainable building experts and landscape architects Oculus. Last year it won the International Project of the Year at the 2015 Building Awards in London - making it impressive to look at from all directions.
As you walk to the precinct from the city or drive along Parkes Way nearby, you can't help but notice the striking, architecturally interesting building towering up into the sky. Take a second look, because this award-winning design is worth appreciating with it's optical illusions, Japanese inspired lines and environmental message literally running through the building.
Roots threading themselves around the base of the Nishi Building - made from recycled tyres
There are more than 200 apartments in the higher levels and the residents can proudly say that they are living a sustainable lifestyle with each apartment gaining an 8 star energy rating. The Nishi Building uses solar heating and hot water systems, high performance glazing on the windows, rainwater collection for the whole building and a host of cutting edge environmental technologies and materials.
In the public spaces, the Nishi Building is an interesting place to explore for anyone that enjoys beautifully made craftsmanship, quirky ideas, recycled materials and artwork in many forms.
At street level there is Palace Cinema and Max Brenner Chocolate Bar to enjoy and at the time of writing, there is a nine foot Grand Piano in the foyer, patiently waiting to be played by a talented musician. The ANU School of Music has supplied the piano to be part of a musical experience for visitors and residents to appreciate in this acoustic foyer. For a list of pianist's coming to play and other events planned for the Nishi Building Foyer, see here.
After you take your eyes off the piano and turn around, marvel at the impressive Grand Stair behind you, leading up inside the building. Designed by March Studio of Melbourne, the staircase uses reclaimed timber from a variety of sources including from the Nishi building site itself, with offcuts from the building's own impressive wood fašade. With uneven horizontal lines, it makes you feel like you are almost floating as you ascend up to Monster Kitchen and Bar and Hotel Hotel on the floor above.
At the top of the stairs is Monster Kitchen and Bar, which has low mood lighting as a result of the environmental ethos of the building. This creates an interesting atmosphere to the restuarant and the features inside the building. If you look closer at the walls, expect the unexpected with creative uses of upcycled products.
In the restaurant, the theme continues with high backed antique chairs contrasted against the modern tubular artworks reaching from floor to ceiling. At the back of the restaurant is a stunning fireplace, with seating around the outside so you can get close and enjoy the warmth of this modern feature.
Combination of vintage and new at Monster Kitchen and Bar
Around the bar area, the lights hang low to illuminate the rhombus-shaped tables, however look up and you will see holes cut out of the concrete ceiling so you can catch a glimpse of a living rainforest garden above. On surrounding walls are bicycles attached artistically and sculptures and surprises are tucked away around each dimly-lit corner.
Also on this floor is the Reception and Concierge for Hotel Hotel, the 5 star accommodation above that occupies three levels of the Nishi Building. This is where you will find a textural, concrete reception desk that requires touching and a wall of ceramic handmade tiles - another textural feature that invites you to walk on over and feel their rough surface.
The exploration doesn't stop here however, as when you leave by these doors, there are also vertical bike racks outside for visitors and residents to get here carbon-free. As part of living in the NewActon precinct, environmental sustainability is the focus and residents also have their own vegetable plots to pick from and recycling initiatives to live by.
Due to the low lighting in the Nishi Building, it can be difficult to produce photos that do justice to the artworks and quirky features of this fascinating building. Open up the doors and walk in for yourself to enjoy this architecturally fascinating building and also appreciate the environmental message behind it. Ensure you stop by at Monster Kitchen and Bar, so you can sit back and take it all in from one vantage point whilst enjoying a coffee, wine or delicious meal - which are anything but monstrous!
Monster Kitchen and Bar lit up. Source: NewActon Facebook
The building might be innovative as architecture for Canberra, but how didn't they think of constructing a decent size parking area underneath!? It's mostly for the hotel patrons and it doesn't have a proper exit out of the upper level like any car park does. When I've used it, I've had to make a 3 pt turn to be able to get out. It beats me.