What to do about the Stokehouse Part 2

As previously reported, the much loved Melbourne restaurant The Stokehouse on the St Kilda foreshore was burnt to the ground in a fire in January.  Since then a new temporary ‘pop up’ structure has been assembled to continue the service of fine food. The speed with which this temporary structure was installed reflects the urgency that the owners have also put on the ongoing task of seeking a permanent replacement.

The temporary Stokehouse 'Pop Up' Restaurant

The temporary Stokehouse ‘Pop Up’ Restaurant

After substantial commentary surrounding this replacement building, including both calls for a replacement replica structure and others for a contemporary design via architectural competition, there has been some resolution as to the who, what and how of the replacement building.

Firstly it has been decided that the new Stokehouse will have a contemporary look, ruling out the idea of building a replica. This is a very good decision which is respectful of our existing heritage by not further muddying the waters of what is old and what is new. It has also been decided that a competition of sorts will be run for the design of the site. The competition is by invitation only which limits the field of entrants to four. As reported on RRR the Architects, there was a nominal fee for the work done by the various architects to get the designs for the competition. The remuneration of the architects in the selective competition is a substantial positive over an open design competition, which leaves practices to undertake substantial volumes of work for free.

The Architects selected for the Stokehouse competition were

Denton Corker Marshall

Jackson Clements Burrows

Robert Simeoni

Sean Godsell Architects

Notably all of these architects are of a similar calibre in terms of quality of design and level of profile within the local architectural community. I have no doubt that any of these four practices could produce an excellent architectural result, however a downside to this selection is the lack of diversity in the practice types shortlisted. In terms of their influence, their level of experience and the gender balance of the directing architects, it is somewhat homogenous. The temporary Stokehouse in the landscape

As argued by John Doyle of Index Architecture in his letter to The Age Newpaper this process could have been an opportunity for smaller and emerging practices to step up to the plate and challenge the well-established design masters. Doyle highlights in particular a lack of opportunity afforded to small and emerging designers within the public realm. It is incumbent on the architecture community to foster these emerging architects as much as possible for the long term benefit of our built environment.

The four architectural practices engaged in this exercise have now completed their competition entries which are now open for public viewing and comment. To view the schemes and participate in the process, follow this link.

For those wanting to know my thoughts on the schemes, here are my comments.

Denton Corker Marshall Stokehouse entry

Denton Corker Marshall

This project for me is the least resolved of the proposals. Whilst the romantic perspective sketches are art in their own right, the elevation for me is less engaging. The rectilinear form appears to be less site specific and more utilitarian. The use of imagery on the building seems to give the building a more commercial feel without adding the more substantial connection with place.



Jackson Clements Burrows Stokehouse entry


Jackson Clements Burrows

This project is a clear crowd favorite due to its comprehensive presentation and semi-realistic montages. It is the easiest to understand and is beautiful in appearance. The use of over-sized text on the front of the building is a good way to quickly build an individual sense of place. This is an interesting contrast to the DCM imagery which seems less successful. On the down side it seems like the design could leave the building with a very serious and almost sombre feel.

It will not be surprising if this is the project which is given the green light

8.5 /10

Robert Simeoni Stokehouse entry 


Robert Simeoni

Clearly the connection with the site was a driving factor in this project which presented substantial analysis to better its case. Consequently this could be quite an architectural gem if it was developed and given the go ahead.  Central to this design is the formation of an earth mound on the Jacka Boulevard approach. One would enter via a slice in this landscape to reveal a spectacular dining room with waterfront view beyond.

Unfortunately I don’t think the massing model does this presentation justice as it dominates visually and may well read as an extreme and un-articulated façade to an unsuspecting public.

8.5 / 10


Sean Godsell Architects Stokehouse entry

Sean Godsell Architects

The greatest strength and weakness of this scheme is the way it extends the brief and the site either side along the foreshore. Sean Godsell Architects have integrated a new surf life-saving club building within the proposed structure which is defined through a series of matchstick style columns and beams. This decision is both brilliant and a substantial risk of resulting in the scheme being ruled out if this is not a commercial possibility.

This scheme takes a while to digest but is worth the effort. The suggested weathered materials, matchstick layering and big picture thinking makes this project my favorite of the four.



For more information and to have your say visit


Architecture is for Everyone


About Michael Smith

Architect and Director of Atelier Red + Black based in Melbourne, Australia
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1 Response to What to do about the Stokehouse Part 2

  1. Good analysis, Michael.

    I commented on Twitter that the four projects only have two ideas between them: the floating volume and the volume within volume. Though I am in agreement with you that the four studios are all first rate architects, their homogeneity makes the homogenous design proposals very unsurprising.

    I suppose a paid, invited competition inevitably leads to a less diverse design outcome. A good or a bad thing? At any rate, I happen to like all four architects and am sure any will produce a good result.

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