2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Circa - Prince of Wales Hotel St. Kilda [DRAFT]

Image Credit : Images 1-3 by Terrence Chin, Images 4-9 by Earl Carter

Project Overview

The Prince of Wales Hotel in St. Kilda Melbourne has been an institution within the local community since 1936. From the beginning the venue has attracted a young, stylish, and vibrant clientele. Over the past 70+ years it became known for its culture of bohemianism and as home to many prominent artists, musicians, and subcultures. More recently it has received countless awards for its architectural design, food, and hotel service. "Meme" was approached by new owner Julian Gerner (2011) to carefully upgrade the "CIRCA" bar and dining room to a more laid back and attainable atmosphere. Mindful of the building's history and predecessors, the challenge was to once again re-invent and reconfigure the space by complimenting the existing bones through traces of change. Spaces were re-programmed and activated to engage and also reflect the Melbourne Pub Group's own "savvy" brand (also owners of The Middle Park Hotel, Albert Park Hotel, Royal Saxon and New Market Hotel). The new look of Circa, amongst its brothers and sisters, offers a crowd attracting destination bar.

Project Commissioner

The Melbourne Pub Group

Project Creator

Design Collective Meme


Meme, a creative partnership between interior designer Megan Hounslow and architect Melanie Beynon, strives to create beautiful, detailed, and practical architecture, interior design, installations and objects which transform, engage, and inspire. Meme's work is characterised by an approach emphasizing research, clear communication, creative, and intelligent design. This leads to robust and detailed implementation and thoughtful, sustainable, and engaging spaces and places.

Project Brief

The brief was to work closely with the client to survey and overview the viability of the existing interior/hospitality offer and design. Meme was commissioned to evaluate the propose a new destination bar and restaurant to once again re-invent "Circa". Under the care of the creative partnernship of Meme, Circa's layout has been reconfigured. The dining room has returned to its original location overlooking Catani Gardens and Port Philip Bay, allowing the balcony to be reopened for dining and reconnecting the space with its immediate street context. The client stamps the space with his effortless style, using his own collected of Eames fiberglass chairs. Drapes were removed from the room, allowing it to become more relaxed and honest as the brasserie's traditional elegance lives with the etched window, clean white walls, and solid oak tables. Artworks curated by Utopian Slumps director Melissa Loughnan punctuate the surfaces, suiting the season and mood of the moment.

Project Need

Meme has promoted innovation through careful cultivation; what is new has been informed and is in idalogue with the old. The new arrangement of existing furniture and materials allows the character of the original spaces to be cleared read while setting new relationships into place. The design approach used innovation as an adaptive continuum rather than complete redefinition. As an example, the courtyard space has been reworked through meticulous editing of recent additions. A new narrative is explored with the inversion of an internal courtyard garden. This new treatment to the existing ceiling has blurred the threshold between the interior and exterior space, connecting the two in a relaxed union. The verdant installation hangs above the diners' heads as a canopy of whimsical charm, while lighting clusters are threaded through the foliage and nestled in hidden recesses fo the installation. In the spirit of the original boutique hotel, the existing Fritz Hason classic chairs are now positioned with both European and customized furniture along-side local emerging artwork. Inspired by the Art Deco style of architecture, the bar is clad in brass, mirror, and black glass, reflecting the glamour and frivolity of the time and a glittering green ceiling installation.

Design Challenge

The client contacted Meme in the first week of January 2012 with the challenge of surveying the design and constructing a revamped interior to "Circa" in only 40 days. The project had to remain on a tight timeframe and budget for its re-launch into the media and press as a discerning updated fitout to an iconic building. The challenge also included paying tribute to the history of the building and establishment, incorporating thoughtful additions that not only add value to "Circa" but also the community in which it sits. The aim was to procure a new more relaxed bohemian overlay in a building and an interior that holds great design significance. New selections of lighting, furniture, and materials were curated to harmonise with the repurposed existing design classics. A ceiling solution and cost effective installation informs the space as an interior courtyard bar, giving the area atmosphere and a European aura.


Meme extensively reused and repurposed spaces, elements, and materials. The bar equipment was shifted and re-appropriated. The Fritz Hanson Egg and Swan chairs were relocated from private to public spaces. The client's own pre-loved Eames chairs were repositioned into the new dining room. Furniture generally was replenished and offered up for fresh consumption. The practice of reusing builds on the history of the project to create eclectic, authentic, familiar, and usable spaces which speak to the past, present, and future. Naturally following on from this approach is the responsible and responsive selection of materials, fixures, and finishes to enhance the experience of the space. This process takes into consideration not only the immediate spatial impact, but also the wider implications of the use of each element.

This award recognises building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.  

Judging Note : Judging for this category will be finalised on Monday 27th August and Finalists will be announced on Tuesday 28th August.

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