Mar 122010

Original Traveling Cranes Preserved

Built in 1915 by the Sydney Harbour Trust, Cowper Wharf, often called Finger Wharf by locals, was recycled in 1991 into a hip chic hotel, run by India’s Taj Hotel group as The Blue.  Even after almost twenty years, the hotel’s Water Bar remains a draw for media glamorati.

The Blue is now an on-going triumph of historic preservation and successful building re-cycling, but at the end of its 70+ years as a freight dock, it fell into disrepair and was slated for removal.  Outraged Sydneysiders physically blocked the path of  demolition workers, and unions prohibited their members from participating in the destruction.  As the largest timbered-piled building in the world, the structure is now protected by Australian and international landmark designations.

Present-Day Water Bar

A beautiful interior retrofit keeps Finger Wharf popular and financially viable and further insures its continued survival.  There are two keys to the beauty and vitality of The Blue’s interior.

First, the long, tall space of the old interior “street” is kept aglow by original clerestory windows that run the length of the building all the way up in the eaves, while the guest rooms remain oriented to the spectacular surrounding bay and marina.

Secondly, the Modernist interior fittings contrast dramatically with the preserved timber and iron of the old building.  By acting as foils for each other, the new and the old are both vividly emphasized.  The hand-wrought, rough-hewn, battle-scarred character of the gigantic room warms the edgy chill of the shiny, sometimes over-designed furniture .  The energetic precision and shine of the Modern fixtures save the grandly funky and massive old shed from dowdy preservationist stuffiness.

World's Largest Wooden-Pile Building

Its a near-perfect illustration of the principle of using eclecticism to achieve both excitement and comfort at once.

The Blue's Lobby Lounge

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