MUM'S THE WORD
It’s an Urban Resort that has touched down on Brisbane’s James Street, ready to challenge ideas of what a metropolitan hotel could be.
Story: Derek Powell
The Calile Hotel:
48 James St, Fortitude Valley QLD
(07) 3607 5888 or thecalilehotel.com
The quirky website that introduces The Calile Hotel typifies the ‘different’ approach. The developers behind the hotel (and much of the rest of Brisbane’s James Street shopping and dining precinct), Michael and Cal Malouf, were keen the website have a “sense of humour and a personality”. So they engaged the celebrated (and Brisbane based) author Nick Earls to write the eccentric and engaging narrative that greets you when you browse to thecallilehotel.com.
The playful site tantalises but reveals only a glimpse of this multi-faceted property, which was named in honour of the Malouf family patriarch Calile Malouf. Attention to detail has been raised to an artform in both design and execution, and to understand what has been achieved, you really need to be up close and personal. To borrow a favoured quote from The Calile Hotel architect, Adrian Spence: “the better you look, the more you see”.
The hotel is managed by TFE Hotels, and is part of their TFE Hotels Collections brand, which includes the Gambaro Hotel on Brisbane’s other epicentre of style, Caxton Street. venue’s guide to The Calile was the energetic General Manager, Jeremy Nordkamp.
Jeremy has made a specialty of opening new properties; his last role was launching a six-star remote wilderness resort in the Maldives. Some of his war stories, like having to ship fresh water in by barge when the on-site desalination plant dropped its bundle, are hair raising. The Calile though has been a very different experience for him, and he is full of praise for the Malouf brothers.
“Developers are normally looking for ways to make money from every available square metre,” Jeremy noted. “Our developers are just not on that matrix! They’re looking for ways to enhance the customer experience per square metre. In our accommodation rooms, the joinery is solid oak, not veneer. We have natural, sustainable cork through our rooms rather than carpet. We have Travertine marble in our corridors and right throughout the whole building. As an urban resort, The Calile is all about quality.
“Throughout the design process the designers really wanted to celebrate what Brisbane and Queensland is all about,” Jeremy continued. “We celebrate the warm weather we have year-round. So you’ll notice we encourage everyone to be outdoors. All of our bedrooms have some form of outdoor area — whether it be a Juliet balcony or full balcony. Our guests have the opportunity to open the doors; walk outside; feel what’s happening in the environment before they come down into the foyer. Our corridors aren’t closed. They’re terminated by breeze blocks, allowing a natural air flow so you don’t feel you’re in a fake environment with air conditioning blowing on you. With every experience of the hotel we’ve really thought about touching all the senses.”
IMPORTANCE OF AMBIENCE
An important part of the sensual experience is quality ambient music. Tucked away in the basement are eight sophisticated music video servers supplied by Nightlife. These provide carefully curated audio and music video playlists ranging from chill to dance music, pre-programmed to play into different areas at scheduled timeslots throughout the day and night.
The goals for the AV systems were well conceived, and quite different to those in most four- and five-star properties. The ambient music was to be high fidelity and required deftly engineered transitions between the various public areas — strings of she’ll-be-right in-ceiling speakers were never going to fit the bill. And unlike most properties, the function rooms were to have comprehensive AV facilities built right in and not rely on hired-in rigs from external suppliers. Crucially, the architects, Richards and Spence, were insistent that quality must be coupled with invisibility as far as the technology was concerned.
Taking on the design and installation challenge was Jason Roesler; whose company Soho Sound Design had a proven track record on previous projects with Richards and Spence.
SONIC ROLLS ROYCE
In keeping with the resort feel, the heart of The Calile Hotel is an elevated, open air pool deck with outdoor dining, cabanas and sun lounges. The pool adjoins the busy fine dining restaurant Hellenika at one end and the pre-function space at the other. Each of these facilities needed its own sound system that was not only top quality but weatherproof. Complicating matters was the requirement of providing hi-fi audio while disappearing into quite different architectural treatments.
Jason went looking for loudspeakers that combine the unlikely traits of miniascule form factor, hi-fi quality, good pattern control and excellent resistance to sub-tropical sun and rain. He found exactly what he needed in the extensive Meyer Sound range. Meyer Sound is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of speaker manufacturers. Its products are often specified for top-flight live performance venues or international touring acts. But its tiny MM-4XP cube speaker was perfect for this particular job. Jason’s clever design saw them popping up everywhere: on stalks in garden beds, on parapets around the pool area and hidden in ceiling crevices and service channels in function rooms and bars. Each self-powered enclosure required only a single cable back to its 48V power supply, simplifying cabling and eliminating the need for conduit in most locations. As well as a complement of MM-4s, each space also featured an MM-10 subwoofer — essential for full-range sound. The bulkier ‘subs’ were often sunk into a nearby wall or bulkhead with a painted grille rendering it virtually undetectable. In a first for the hotel industry, every function and public space within the hotel features Meyer Sound loudspeakers — either MM-4XP cubes or, occasionally, Ashby ceiling speakers, matched with subwoofers.
FLEXING THE PARTY MUSCLE
The combination of one sub with up to four MM-4s was endlessly versatile and potent. Each system could provide full-range ambient music; sound reinforcement; or club sound at up to 113dB, indoors or out. This flexibility suits The Calile Hotel admirably. With input points to each subsystem located in function areas; the pool deck; bar area and elsewhere, plus the facility to combine the sound systems across virtually any areas, there’s an capability to turn the hotel into party central for whichever of the precinct-wide events that characterise James Street. Management has been quick to seize the opportunities this uniquely flexible system offers.
“For New Year, we plugged the DJ’s console on the pool deck into the existing hardware and had him playing New Year’s Eve and all New Year’s Day.” Jeremy Nordkamp recalled. “And we had his music feeding down to the lobby; lobby bar; and the porte-cochère driveway as well. What’s more, there was no need for his own portable loudspeakers. One foldback speaker was all we added to a DJ coming in and taking care of a whole hotel!”
Next to the pool deck is the busy functions area. A unique 100-seat outdoor auditorium perched above and a covered terrace bookend the Grand Room, which divides neatly into four. Kristie Mancell, The Calile’s dynamic sales and marketing manager, is enthusiastic about the flexibility offered by the elegantly designed space: “The use of the room can really vary,” she revealed. “It ranges anywhere from an intimate wedding ceremony for 20 up to a conference for 180, cabaret style. Having the ability to be flexible in the space is what really sets us apart. It’s pillar-less; it’s beautiful; it’s got natural light on both sides; and the presentation facilities are absolutely premium. The room itself is so simplistic and elegant. Our brides come in and they use a single vase in the centre of the table — they don’t need anything else because of the simple beauty of the space.”
Each of the four function rooms is equipped with complete audio and video systems. Two elegant lecterns along with a conveniently-located laptop HDMI inputs cater to corporate functions. ‘Quality’ and ‘elegance’ are the watchwords. The six projectors are up-market Christie models and the custom motorised screens are borderless, allowing them to blend into the white walls when deployed. Weddings, parties (and anything) are catered to with six in-house Nightlife music video channels. A touch of a button on the discreet control panel can instantly ramp up the sound to party mode creating a video disco with nightclub quality sound. The clever Nightlife video server even has a jukebox function called Crowd DJ which allows guests to a pick a song to play on the big screen using a mobile phone app — a real crowd pleaser.
KEEPING IT IN HOUSE
From the design stage, the key deliverable in the audiovisual system was that the vast majority of functions be handled in-house without external equipment hire and operators. It’s quite a contrast to the more usual hotel operations which rely on a contracted AV supplier.
According to GM, Jeremy Nordkamp, the key to achieving the self-sufficiency goal was the right specification, quality equipment and a competent integration team. “From a hotelier’s point of view, working with Soho, as an integrator, and with Michael and Cal [Malouf], who are the developer; it’s just been a breath of fresh air,” Jeremy admits, “because they’re so focused on getting the AV right. It means my team members don’t have to spend too much time on the technology, giving them the ability to focus on what really matters — and that’s our customers.”
Kristie agrees: “If your AV falls down, your event is ruined. Regardless of whether your food and beverage is great and your service is superb; if those AV elements fall down at the last minute you can’t really recover. And because of how amazing this equipment is, every single member of our team knows exactly what to do to make sure it’s set up perfectly; and knows how to run through it with the organiser.
“In terms of offering, we are a premium product,” Kristie continued. “The food and beverage is very much the higher end of what everyone else is offering in Brisbane. But our clients know quality when they see it and they love the fact they can essentially plug in their AV and go. They don’t have to worry about an extra $1000 for a projector and screen, or an extra $400 for hand-held microphones. Even if we’re marginally more expensive on food and beverage, we still come under because we don’t have an extra two grand of AV they haven’t budgeted for. So getting people to buy into what we’re offering hasn’t been a struggle at all.”
URBAN FIRST RESORT
There is more to an urban resort than its public spaces. The 175 guest rooms, which include 11 suites and two penthouses, are truly distinctive. Attending to detail has made the difference according to architect Adrian Spence, quoted as saying: “We designed rooms with space big enough to unfold two suitcases, benches for shopping bags, vanities large enough for your own toiletries, operable windows to experience Brisbane’s great weather, and operable walls to enable customisation of the space”.
As you would expect, the same care has been applied to the in-room audiovisual aspects. Each of the generously proportioned and elegantly furnished guest rooms is equipped not with the usual 40-inch ‘hospitality special’ TV but with a 55-inch UHD spec Samsung panel, thoughtfully wall-mounted at just the right height for relaxed viewing. Attention to detail in audio quality starts right here. “Built-in TV speakers just can’t give any depth or quality of audio experience,” Jason Roesler insisted. Sound is important not just for the off-air experience, since the in-house TV system also delivers a selection of music curated by specialists, Nightlife. Accordingly a Samsung sound bar is wall mounted beneath each screen. “There was a lot of work in selecting, installing and controlling them,” Jason admits, “but we needed to make sure we had a hi-fi experience in-room just as we have in the public areas and function spaces.”
Fittingly, the last word should go to developer Michael Malouf. “We wanted to give people the Brisbane experience. We didn’t want carpet on the floor, dark panelling and dimly lit corridors with glowing room numbers. We wanted to embrace the subtropical climate. We wanted it to be bright. We wanted to do something different.”
They did. It worked.
Attention to detail (a Calile watchword) even applies to the seven private Cabanas that line the magnificent swimming pool. During the day, they are kept exclusively for hotel guests, but at night they turn into outdoor dining for Hellenika at The Calile, the on-site Greek restaurant run by Gold Coast fine dining guru Simon Gloftis.
In keeping with the high standards of both The Calile and Hellenika, each Cabana is equipped for comfort with private power; a USB for phone charging; a ceiling fan; and an overhead Bromic heater, which the guest can control from within the cabana. Wait. Heating? In balmy Queensland?
“Yes, heating in Queensland!” laughs Jeremy. “As Queenslanders we think we get three months of cold weather. And because we attract a lot of Queenslanders to our hotel, it was important for us to provide top quality heating.”
Bromic heating fits the bill architecturally, as it installs neatly in the compact cabana, leaving room for the ceiling fan and lighting. “They’re quite compact, but they’re beautiful and turning on medium heat will warm one of those cabanas quite easily,” Jeremy added.
But durability and effectiveness were also major considerations in the choice. Furthermore, Bromic heaters are also in the outdoor pre-function spaces which overlook the pool area.
“Obviously the heating is right by the pool, which is a saltwater chlorinated system,” Jeremy noted. “We keep them clean, but the equipment has to pass the test of time in that environment. We know the Bromic heating is not going to stop working because of moisture or a bit of salt.”