Acclaimed urban architect uncorks talents at Yarra Valley winery
He may be a champion of Australia’s ongoing urbanisation but acclaimed architect Karl Fender is branching out from commercial and residential design into winery and upper end luxury accommodation projects.
The wealthy Victorian Jreissati family, of Bensons Property Group, who have developed apartments across Melbourne, hired Fender Katsalidis to design a $20 million-plus winery, events, tasting, and presentation centre along with 34 high-end luxury suites at their Levantine Hill Estate in the Yarra Valley.
The project is upper end, with the suites costing as much as $1200 per night on weekends per couple. Food and beverages will be available from Levantine Hill’s existing cellar door and restaurants including its fine diner, Ezard.
Levantine Hill managing director Samantha Jreissati hopes the new three-level wine centre, which will be completed this year and can accommodate 250 guests, will host international wine shows. But on a more local scale she is expecting it to attract weddings and larger family events to the vineyard, which produces wines in the old-world French style.
Fender, one of the founders of the acclaimed architectural firm which bears his name, designed the Bendigo Art Gallery in regional Victoria, but he said projects such as the Levantine Hill Estate development were unique.
The building is a soaring barrel vault capturing views of the winery, and in concert with the neighbouring cellar door, will raise the bar even higher for hospitality in the region
“It is an unusual project, not one that comes along very often,” Fender tells The Weekend Australian.
“We are doing an integrated development. They are making the best wine in the valley and I would argue that the buildings are unlike anything else in the valley.
“The design pays homage to the winemaking process and is a reflection of the brand’s pedigree. It will be a point of attraction for both design and wine lovers, enhancing the dining and lifestyle experience,” he says.
“The building is a soaring barrel vault capturing views of the winery, and in concert with the neighbouring cellar door, will raise the bar even higher for hospitality in the region.
“(Whereas) the wine production building is a barrel vault, quite a simple vaulted form, it’s practical and quite rural in its look. They have used a lot of corrugated iron. On the one hand, it’s complementary to the cellar door and also a very nice soft form against the surrounding scenery.”
Bensons Property chairman Elias Jreissati started buying vineyards in the Yarra Valley back in 2008 with his Maroondah Highway Levantine Hill vineyard encompassing about 200 acres.
“Elias has developed a successful business at Levantine Hill with very good food, a nice building, a fine location and an excellent range of wines. It’s a formula for success,” Fender says.
Fender says there are some very nice winery buildings in the Yarra Valley.
“Some are of course historical but I am not sure if there is anything else as current as this one.
The design pays homage to the winemaking process and is a reflection of the brand’s pedigree. It will be a point of attraction for both design and wine lovers, enhancing the dining and lifestyle experience
“They wanted something quite striking as you drive past but it had to be appropriate in a rural setting and had to be very nice to be inside to taste wines.”
Levantine Hill Estate managing director Samantha Jreissati said an application would be made to the local council within a couple of weeks to develop the Fender Katsalidis-designed self-contained accommodation arm of the project, which will cost around $10 million.
“It’s a small cluster of 34 self-contained high-end units. We would have hoped to have them finished by the end of this year but with the virus it will probably be finished by the middle of next year,” Jreissati says.
Prices for two people start at $300 mid-week, rising to $1200 on the weekend for the higher-end accommodation.
Both the accommodation and the new event space are being built on the Levantine Hill Estate’s Moorandah Highway vineyard where all the estate wines are grown.
“We would love to attract international chefs and winemakers and further elevate the Yarra Valley wine region,” Jreissati says.
“But the point of everything we are doing is we have to fit in with the landscape, we will have to honour that with accommodation as well. In any plans we do on the land we want to honour the sense of place and respect the beautiful landscape.”
Back in Melbourne Mr Fender said the firm was working on a spread of designs from build-to-rent to commercial office, retail, hotels and residential. But he said the 150-strong firm, which was working from home, was not doing as much residential as normally.
“We are still looking at planning applications, and the early stages of residential projects. We have a number of residential projects under construction, while the Australia 108 tower is nearing completion.”
This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.