World Festival of Interiors 2023

Now in its 16th year, the World Architecture Festival (WAF) is the world’s largest festival and live awards competition dedicated to celebrating and sharing architectural excellence from across the globe…

Inside, is WAF’s sister festival, a feast of creativity, inspiration and knowledge, bringing the interiors community together to create global connections and celebrate the world’s finest examples of interior design.

Text:  WAF Inside

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liberal eclectic is continually amazed at the standard of both public and residential architecture, ditto interior design: forever innovative and creative!  The following examples are no exception; each in their own right incredible!
First, lets have a look at a couple of the 2022 winners!

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Winner Hotels 2022: noa* network of architecture – Monastero

[The work was undertaken]…in close collaboration with the Office of Cultural Heritage.

The project consisted of two main phases: the renovation and conversion of the monastery and its interiors into a hotel, and the development of a new Wellness area within the lush garden.
The hotel achieved by creating common spaces (reception, lobby, breakfast room, bar area and kitchen) on the ground floor with the rooms mainly distributed between the first floor and the loft. 
These interventions have resulted in a refuge that takes you back in time, closely centred around the history of this place…

With its 40 rooms (including 2 suites), the Monastero Arx Vivendi…offers hospitality in full harmony with the spectacular location. From a design perspective the underlying idea was to maintain the…monastery architecture, preserving the original design of the internal paths and extending its geometrical rigour to the new volumes, paying close attention to the choice of materials and colours.

Text: WAF Inside  Hotels winner 2022: noa* network of architecture  Photography: Alex Filz

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Everything about Monastero makes my heart sing!

The architects articulate, “…every construction choice, every material and detail, has been studied to draw on the majesty of the pre-existing context, exalting it and giving it new life.” This attitude is exciting because it celebrates the history of the existing architecture, the methods used and the people who originally built it. The integrated approach enables a partnership between the old and the new, a 21st century intervention enabling generations to value it for a plethora of reasons well into the future.  Furthermore, the positive alteration at once adds cultural depth whilst growing and enhancing the sense of place through the revitalisation.  

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Winner Residential (single dwelling) 2022: Valentino Architects – La Serenissima

Why is this house special and distinctive? Read on to find out!
This retrofit project revives the…sanctuary of one of Malta’s most compelling modern artists – Frank Portelli (1923-2004), known for his mural art and tonally faceted paintings.

His work was informed by an international world-view and expressed through a style he coined ‘crystallised cubism’.

During his active years, he designed and built a Post – Modernist building in the village of Attard as his studio-home. The building was called La Serenissima, named by the artist in tribute to the city of Venice. 

By removing the glazing from the angled skylights above the deck, the new raised space is converted into an outdoor terrace.

The recessed south facing glass shades the interiors from the intense summer sun, letting the lower winter sun in during colder months. The timber plinth steps down into the kitchen area, doubling as informal seating.

Inside the dining space, Portelli’s original plywood pin-up wall has been conserved with authentic markings and notes. Throughout the apartment, his collection of mid-century furniture and lighting , as well as his own self-made furniture, have been restored and integrated into the decor.

Colours used in the new interiors carry the boldness of Portelli’s original design elements. The thick, black lines of his apertures echo in the kitchen furniture, with shades of grey repeating in both the new resin flooring and conserved tiles. Portelli’s angular shapes recur throughout the space in new interventions – door handles are fashioned through triangular punctures, visually connecting with the triangular-shaped window.

The intention for La Serenissima’s conversion was to mitigate the impact of intense sunlight and overheating , whilst conserving the vibrancy and modernity of Portelli’s original space. A story of dramatic light and lines, this retrofit project honours the artist’s unique vision and design sensibility.

Text: WAF Inside:   Architect: Valentino Architects  Photography: Ramon Portelli

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Why does this house stand out!
La Serenissima  has a personal  dimension intricately linked to history, art, architecture and design stories.  And the house continues to reveal both internal and external stories from a different yet parallel point of view: alongside modern yet subtle and practical interventions. A beguiling aspect are the trees protruding through the deck: a lemon tree at one end and an olive tree at the other, providing fruit and ultimately diverting heat from the interiors.  The redesign attaches nature directly to the inside in quirky yet functional ways.  Moreover and importently, the architect’s have not overplayed their role. 

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WAF Inside 2023
A few shortlisted projects! Easy to see why!

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The Penthouse by WOW

“The target audience is disruptive, original, and sophisticated, seeking a unique occasion.”

“The design brief for The Penthouse by WOW to interpret the penthouse of the former Hotel Roma as the home of the hotel owner, creating an unusual, sophisticated, and exclusive ambiance. The creative concept used for the interior design was to think of the restaurant as an apartment that adapts to a gastronomic space.

The idea was to create a cozy and elegant atmosphere that would make diners feel as if they were in the home of a unique and eccentric character, such as “The Spanish King.”…The restaurant has been conceived as an apartment for a person who started living there in the 70s, so there is a direct reference to the design of that decade…To achieve this, each room of the restaurant was interpreted as a domestic space transformed into a dining area.

The design establishes a significant connection between the type of cuisine and the interiors, making the culinary concept adapt perfectly to the space’s footprint.

The open kitchen is visible to diners, creating a unique and intimate environment between the chefs and customers. The space has also been designed to adapt to different special occasions, such as private dinners or corporate events, while maintaining the coherence and aesthetics of the space. The result is a unique and sophisticated gastronomic experience that transports diners to the home of an eccentric character while enjoying high-quality cuisine in a visually stunning setting.” 

Text: WAF Inside  Architect: External Reference  Photography: Germán Saiz

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This project stands out for obvious reasons!  Nonetheless, a few more observations!
Apart from the recocognizably novel concept, scale and quality of the design, what stands out is the exclusive experience designed into the respective areas.  In general the concept of WOW draws afficionados looking for something different.  Having enticed diners inside, they present discrete rooms offering psychologically diverse dining events: niched impactful atmospheres. Secondly, the lighting moves WOW to another level of aesthetic appreciation.
In total the splendid lighthearted vivacity is compelling! 

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Click on images below for greater definition!

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Carter Williamson Architects Shortlisted WAF Inside 2023 awards: Residential (single dwelling)
“Rosso Verde rejects the prevailing notion that bigger is always better. The relinquishing of interior space for a courtyard provided our clients with a more clearly defined, rational plan within the former warehouse.”

Rosso Verde does not follow the typical industrial precedent set for warehouse conversions, often leaning into cold industrial aesthetics. Instead, we opted for an interior narrative that used a combination of earthy tones and textural materials to create warmth while celebrating the warehouse bones of the building in a sophisticated and elevated way.

We designed custom joinery pieces to suit our client’s needs and flexible ways of living. Materials are layered, generous, and finished with fine detailing that removes the expected heaviness of the palette; the double bullnose edge of the kitchen island, the floating vanity in the deep red tiled WC, the fluted glass breaking up the aged brass of the buffet doors.”

Text: WAF Inside  Architect: Carter Williamson Architects  Photographer: Pablo Veiga

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I love Rosso Verde, with a few qualifications!

The reasons for shortlisting Rosso Verde are both obvious and subtle. Rosso Verde resonates for many credible reasons.

The building both deserved and was legitimately recycled; synchronised to that idea the intervention elevates the warehouse’s existance as a valuable record of early central Sydney architecture.  Alongside, the clients and the architects are honouring the history and transition of the building in comprehensible and expressive ways. In practical lifestyle based terms it is truly an oasis in the city, one that easily accommodates summer and winter. 

Speculating, there are a couple of things that compromise Rosso Verde, perhaps not immediately but likely in the near future: change for changes sake.  I mention this because both the palette and many integral design features, whilst bouyant in the early 2020’s will date within the remainder of the decade.  This factor is possibly an irrelevance to the clients and architects; perhaps they consider it timeless and the clients have no intention of changing it.  Or, they have the funds and thus feel they can change it when it dates, as is their right.  Self-evidently, when all things considered a warehouse conversion by a top architectural firm, located close to Sydney’s CBD cannot have come about cheaply. In its entirety the establishment of Rosso Verde would have required many millions to pass hands. 

In the current ‘climate change crisis’ future developments and significant builds, conversions, re-developments should be front and centre of the architect’s planning in terms of remodelling existing buildings. Rosso Verde is a renovation to an existing warehouse conversion, that being the case potential waste to landfill would have been substantial. 

Architecture, engineering and construction employ 1.2 million people in Australia and account for 9% of gst. But our biggest service sector also produces roughly 40% of landfill waste and accounts for 18% of Australia’s carbon footprint. The sector must change its practices fast for Australia to meet its commitments to cut emissions under the Paris agreement.

Apart from deep pockets, the clients have needs and requirements, fully understood, however, I feel the architects are duty bound to guide their client’s in the taking of responsible decisions in terms of the environment, sustainability factors and climate change, and to factor in timelessness rather than design for the current trend.  Those advocating for environmental sustainability can be forgiven for believing that following trends equates to ‘change for changes sake.’  Especially relevant because Rosso Verde has been proclaimed a ‘forever house’ according to CWA’s Julie Niass.  It may be a forever house, but the interior design speaks to, ‘trending early 2020’s’. If it is a forever house the interiors would not reflect the trends of the early 2020’s.  That in itself indicates that change will be on the horizon in the aftermath of 2028 if not earlier when all things are considered, because if that idea was anathema to the client’s and CWA, Rosso Verde’s interior scheme would have been different. 

40% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from buildings and, if left unchecked, they’re set to double by 2050.

More specifically, the domestic arch* has been overplayed by architects and designers as a design attribute: relentlessly popping up in the last few years. This said, perhaps it is a ‘must have’ feature on the client’s list of necessary elements and as such the architects obliged to include them. Perhaps the 1930s had something to do with the building of the warehouse and the link was made via the boom of art deco in the 1930’s? 

Similarly the high trend of maroon / oxblood palette in the bathroom / powder room will drag the client’s sensibilities back in time the longer they are in situ, unless they have found their ‘forever palette in these tones.  Irrespective, the warehouse undoubtedly had a unique history to draw from and internal structural presence in abundance, without the need for ‘art deco style’ motifs unless the client’s specifically wanted them or they are happy to change it all when those aspects are no longer de rigueur.  Obviously, money is no object, they can alter their interiors whenever they wish, and yet that fact alone should not drive change for changes sake.  As a professional body (members of the AIA) the architect’s need to spell out how this aspect is taken into account now and in the future.  Cases in point the timeless residential work of Peter Stutchbury Architecture, John Wardle, Faulkner Architects, Superkül, Patterson Architects and Herbst Architects to name a few.  

For all the misgivings, the holistic remodel is spatially dynamic, functional, creative and a little eccentic which is what makes it stand out.

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SJB 19 Waterloo Street Shortlisted WAF Inside 2023 awards: Residential (single dwelling)

“With a footprint of 30 sqm and a Jacques Tati-esque façade of recycled and broken brick, this house playfully engages with the street through arrangement and geometry of openings.

Ultimately, it’s about sustainability, doing more with less, reusing a site, reusing materials, and better using an existing connected place.”

Text: WAF Inside  Architects: SJB  Photography: Anson Smart

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19 Waterloo Street is a coup for many reasons: ingenious compact architecture, recycled materials, historic architectural elements, roof top escape, charismatic spaces and the central Sydney location.
Waterloo Street is condensed living at its most creative and essential!  Although small, the design is, in the main, timeless.

As mentioned, I am not a fan of modern domestic arches.  In this project they are subtle and intergrated with the exterior’s architectural rigour rather than an interior design appendage. Thus, they work better with the type, scale and age of the building. 

Interior design is minimal and largely neutral, save the bathroom: it is beautiful and yet it once more refers too specifically to its time in history. Refer Rosso Verde above, I make the point again because this project will have been costly: firstly, it is located in Surrey Hills, Sydney and secondly though small the complexities of the architectural redesign will have resulted in hefty expenditure.  Nothing wrong with that in itself.  

Zealotry aside, when imagining refurbishing a bathroom, automatically it is distinctive, high quality, mellifuluous and timeless. This bathroom, represents the pinnacle of interior design trends in the early 2020’s and as trends dictate, will soon date. Those with this kind of money can effortlessly decide to change it in a few years whether it has dated or not.  And in some respects, that’s OK too. They can decide in 2027, the colours have dated and that consideration draws me to the notion that if trends did not matter they wouldn’t have chosen this scheme in the frst place.  People with money can easily destroy it and put in a new one. To be fair, all the material from that destruction might be recycled, but it could also end up in landfill.  OK! The architects want to stand out in the WAF Inside awards, and yet they should be thinking ahead to potential impacts on the environment and the planet from the get-go.  Especially, as mentioned above, the industry at large is a significant contributer to both emissions and landfill. 

I believe the Judging panel should be cogniscent of environmental and sustainable impacts when finalising the Shortlisting and awarding the winner.  Attempting to find out how environmental impact is factored into awarding the winner I contacted WAF twice, but did not hear back from them.

In spite of that the essential stand outs are the original architetural aspects, spatial distribution (including outlook and rooftop sanctum) and the recycling of materials. In keeping with extant historic architectural elements (ceilings) is the architect’s idea: The interior volumes are arranged to borrow outlook from the city.

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Volumes, materials and scheme are simple, appropriate and stylish.

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