Captain Melville


  • Breathe Architecture
  • Ficus Constructions
  • Tony Stewart Creative
  • Lovell Chen
  • Anthony Middling & Associates


Captain Melville is the re-invention of a dark inner city nightclub into a restaurant inspired by ghosts of patrons past.
One of Victoria’s first licensed hotel’s, Mac’s Hotel (1853) arose amid a colony in a state of dichotomy. Settlers flooded our shores chasing land, gold and new beginnings, while convicts railed against injustice and the class system that created it.
In the spirit of this historic narrative and rousing a new layer of chaos, the tale of the \”Gentleman\” Bushranger and his renegade sentiment permeates through the venue’s new identity, branding and raw materiality.

Key Features


The client’s sought to transform an historic building from its incongruous life as a nightclub, into an fine dining hall and bar catering for a greater variety of patrons and responding to its heritage context.
Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, the hotel was sensitively stripped back to form an empty frame ready for a new story to be told throughout. Previously boarded up skylights and windows were unbound, the masked exterior uncovered, linings and varnishes shaven. The architecture called for a repurposed aesthetic, responding to the gold rush inspired environment without creating a colonial museum or cliché.


Divided into two main parts, the casual front bar is encased in steel, notionally operating as an apparatus panning for ‘liquid gold’, filtered to the patrons. Intimate and communal perimeter seating provide a place to gather around to drink and story tell. Beyond, the large dining hall is lined with habitable peaked tent structures and communal tables to provoke interaction between strangers. The hall evokes an ambience reminiscent of the early tent cities from Melbourne’s past.
A new entry penetrates the adjacent lane, initiating new activity beyond the street and responding to the city’s love of discovery and hidden access.


The narrative led design developed an approach to the client’s brief that served to inform and unfold across the venue branding and new identity. The tale of Captain Melville and heritage context extends through to graphic representation in the form of building and event signage, menus and even staff attire. The architectural resolution and commercial image are thus entwined, strengthening one another and successfully delivering a new community of patrons and agenda to the former venue.


The fit-out is conceptually based on the scene of mass occupation of Australia during the 1850\’s by immigrants chasing their fortunes during the Australian Gold Rush.

Melbourne had then grown almost over night from a tiny village into a gridded tent city. The repetition of these simple peaked forms, erected from materials on hand in the settlement and laid over the landscape, became the conceptual framework for the design and material palette.
Robust, recycled materials replace the typical application of high-embodied energy building products, and instead presents a form of architectural \”de-materialisation\” in pursuit of building only what is needed, rather than what is expected.

Read all features / benefits
online casino