Can you capture the spirit of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, in a three-story building? The answer is ‘yes’ and it is called the Imperial Hotel Erskineville in Sydney, Australia. The 1983 national treasure of the LGBQTI community used to be a safe haven and is now, newly face-lifted and refurbished, a place of pleasure for this community. The historic theatre, event space, and birthplace of the idea for Priscilla, an iconic movie, was recently re-engineered by Alexander and Co. The multidisciplinary design practice that captures architecture, interior design, project management, styling, branding, and master planning in one go, reimagined the Imperial Hotel as a place to celebrate, discover, and respect diversities and differences. The mix between solid building materials including brickwork, concrete, steel, and the colorful furnishing, interiors, and decors revive the cultural place and elevate it to a new level. The 250-seat ‘Priscillas’ restaurant on the ground floor serves mostly plant-based dishes with the occasional meat option thrown in. While the old stage had to give room to more tables, a small stage is still offering space for drag shows and performances to entertain guests and to enhance the dining experience. The design of the main room is a mix of seemingly random placed stone floor tiles and timber work framed by skylights and steel-rimmed windows that cast interesting shadows into the space. The open kitchen, inner courtyard, and winter garden give the Imperial Hotel a new, modern look and include repurposed lampshades, chandeliers, and paper sculptures. Not a tad less quirky is the upstairs. The Imperial UP, the upper-level pizzeria and bar, centers around the golden pizza oven. The retractable roof and stone mosaics in pop art graphics – all in vivid colors – sum up the concept of an ‘Arts Social Club’ not un-similar to Studio 54, Andy Warhol’s creations of popular Art Deco or Gertrude Stein’s poetry and art collections. Historically the inside space was the changing rooms of the Drag Queens. The mirrors, custom-made brass, lights, and play with shadows still remind guests of the 10-seat private dining room of that era. The color scheme in sun-bleached pinks, mustards, and burgundy carries the energy of earlier times. The contemporary bohemian rooftop is also the home of the Frida Las Vegas gallery and will become the location of the first Australian same-sex marriage cathedral in 2019. The spirit and design of the Imperial Hotel make it certainly a place not to miss while visiting Sydney. And getting some great plant-based foods is a treat to add on. We would opt this as a ‘must-see’ place. Have a look at other brilliant lights in Sydney and join the design conversation with Scott Weston.
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