The Colonial Mutual Life (CML) building of Adelaide has transformed several times in the past eight decades, but it is its heritage-listed facade that holds the most interest.
“It was built in 1934, right in the middle of the Great Depression,” architect Kerstin Bruneder told 891 ABC Adelaide‘s Afternoons program.
However its Benedict stone facade — now heritage-listed — was not all it appeared to be.
“It is actually precast concrete,” Ms Bruneder said.
“It’s a manmade stone, hand chiselled and was actually very progressive for the time.”
On its 80th birthday, the building was transformed into a hotel.
Ms Bruneder led a team of architects and builders for five years and oversaw the empty office building come into its own as the 4.5-star Mayfair Hotel.
Although largely unchanged on the outside, inside the team made great use of areas previously used for storage.
The basement rooms were transformed into a restaurant.
Several tonnes of concrete had to be removed between the ground floor and basement to provide natural light to the space.
An equipment room — home to hundreds of pigeons when the building was vacant — became a rooftop bar.
The Hennessy Lounge takes its name from the building’s original designer, Hennessy, Hennessy and Co.
A challenging space
The building had been renovated several times in its history, creating several challenges for Ms Bruneder’s team.
“No column grid lines lined up,” she said.
“Wherever we looked there were challenges.
“It was a challenging space to be honest, as it was simply not built to be a habitable space.”
At one point the building had hosted radio station 5DN.
The building’s original height was boosted by 32 metres to accommodate the station and two wooden transmission masts were erected on top of the building.
“I find it very rewarding in coming up here and seeing people enjoying a space and exploring a new bit of an old building which had never been used before,” Ms Bruneder said.
The mansard roof, covered in Wilson tiles, is also heritage-listed.