60 Artists, Designers and Architects Came Together to Create This Canberra Hotel

Ovolo Nishi

When Hotel Hotel was opened in Canberra’s NewActon Precinct near Commonwealth in 2010, it was one of the most striking builds in the city. It resembles part of a cruise ship, but with a touch of Antoni Gaudi quirk in the form of a pineapple-shaped façade.

Today, it’s still one of the most noticeable buildings in the city’s skyline, but with a unique accommodation experience to match. Bought by Ovolo Hotels in 2018, the hotel was rebranded to Ovolo Nishi, offering all the perks the brand is known for (if you book direct) — like free breakfast, mini bar, loot bag, social hour drinks, lolly station and laundry.

It blends sustainability, design and sociability across its 85 rooms, 31 apartments, 24-hour gym and restaurant Monster Bar and Kitchen.

Ovolo Nishi exterior
Image: Ovolo Nishi

“During the hotel’s original development, more than 60 designers, artists, artisans, architects and curators were engaged to create this space,” says Gabriel Polias, Ovolo Nishi’s General Manager. “Elements of our country’s history are carefully integrated into the design, showcasing Australia’s manmade and natural history.”

The hotel’s design starts with a wooden staircase leading to the moody reception area and restaurant Monster Kitchen and Bar. Designed by March Studio, it’s made from more than 2,150 pieces of recycled timber that line the walls, forming a shell that in Polias’ words, manages to be both rustic and baroque, high-tech and low-tech, simple and mind-achingly complex.

“It makes plodding up the stairs feel a little bit like a jump to hyperspace in the Millenium Falcon — just swap speed-distended strips of starlight for frozen battens of timber offcuts,” says Polias.

Once you’ve checked in and rested in your room — which ranges from Cosy Atrium and Snug Sun, to the largest room Meandering Atrium — Polias suggests you head downstairs for the complimentary daily social hour. Follow this with dinner at Monster Bar and Kitchen, which is fully vegetarian and uses locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.

“It’s becoming increasingly popular for people to feel good about what they eat and order,” says Polias. “Our Executive Chef introduces complexity to simple, fresh and quality ingredients, creating many layers of flavour in the final result. Longevity, fermenting and pickling of veg feature prominently across the menu, allowing the vibrancy of the produce to live on.”

The next day, you might want to see a film at Palace Electric cinemas at the base of the building or explore the hotel’s surroundings, like Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin by foot or by bike, rented from the hotel.

As for which room in Ovolo Nishi Polias considers his favourite, he says it’s the Meandering Atrium, which features a king-size bed, desk, sitting area, double vanity, twin overhead rain showers and tub.

Meandering Atrium Ovolo Nishi
Image: Ovolo Nishi

“Experience true relaxation in your very own concrete bathtub with a glass of wine, or two, and our complimentary snacks,” says Polias. “Also in the room, the Australian landscape is brought to life across its walls, and the furnishings are an active catalogue of restored and reclaimed 20th-century pieces from across Australia.”

“Tucked among the tree ferns, with low-lit, moody vibes, it’s a dreamy cocoon where you can really get away from it all,” says Polias.

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