Raising the bar - Technē revamps Rooftop Bar and Cinema

Melbourne’s Rooftop Bar & Cinema has been relaunched following a major revamp by Technē Architecture + Interior Design, which has given the space a more permanent feel and a consistent architectural language.

Technē's brief for the popular CBD venue was to raise the design standard, including the quality of materials and finishes to attract a "more discerning, sophisticated audience" via an architectural response which delivered a consistent and cohesive summit to Curtin House.

When it first opened in 2006, Rooftop Bar & Cinema was the first of its kind in Melbourne, with its location along Swanston Street offering movie-goers and bar flys 360-degree views of the city skyline.

Following the success of its first decade, Technē set to work redesigning the venue with a view towards the next decade and beyond. They started by looking at how the Rooftop audience had matured and effectively outgrown what had, in its original state been a somewhat provisional design so they sought to provide a degree of permanence to the design of the refit.

The practice’s design response for the space features a series of overlapping ‘halo’ roofs that unite the service zones with each other and with the historic external form of Curtin House, providing a cohesive visual identity across the hospitality and cinema areas.

The curved forms draw on the Art Deco Curtin House. Image: Image: Tom Blachford

The ‘halos’ have been designed as down-lit curvilinear planes that provide both operable and fixed roofing, and appear to float above the various areas of the rooftop bar. The halos’ curves draw on elements of the Art Deco Curtin House in addition to classic American drive-in cinemas.

Part of the rationale behind the halos was to allow the Rooftop Bar and Cinema to operate as an all-season venue, while also providing a visual marker from surrounding buildings and passersby on Swanston Street.

Across the rooftop itself, Technē has enlarged the bar and changed its orientation to maximise the space. Further a revamped cinema grandstand made of hardwood bleachers has been included, while the cinema screen area's design has been improved to accommodate an expanded burger shack and ice cream concession.

Technē's revamp of the Rooftop Bar & Cinema builds on the venue's success. Image: Tom Blachford

We’ve reimagined the whole design experience so the bar and cinema can stand as a first-rate attraction for many years to come.

We wanted to create a stand-out design worthy of crowning Curtin House and its vertical laneway of creative, cultural and hospitality tenants.

It is a complete reinvigoration but, in our choice of materiality, we haven’t turned our backs on the humble, grassroots hospitality culture that the original bar championed. We’ve honoured that history by choosing materials such as hardwood timber, galvanized metals, and synthetic grass.

Melbourne’s hospitality culture has undergone a complete transformation over the same period Rooftop has been open. It was important to retain the
soul of the original bar and cinema but look to the future, with a more sophisticated offering worthy of this incredible skyline location,.

We believe the redevelopment will allow for a varied clientele to enjoy the iconic location and views for many years to come.

- Steve McKeag, Technē Director

The relaunch of Rooftop Bar and Cinema comes at a time when, according to Technē, Melbourne’s bar culture is undergoing a period of maturation, transitioning away from the temporal ‘milk-crate’ styling of recent years towards a more sophisticated design approach that seeks to ensure the city’s laneway bars have a sense of permanence and resilience.

Rooftop Bar and Cinema's evolution has seen a re-imagining of the spaces. Image: Tom Blachford

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