Plans for new Stokehouse restaurant selected

Clay Lucas

Just four months after the Stokehouse burnt down, designs have been selected for a striking new building on the St Kilda foreshore to replace the much-loved restaurant.

The Van Haandel Group, which holds a 21-year lease over the Jacka Boulevard site, has selected a design by architect Robert Simeoni.

The new Stokehouse will sit atop constructed sand dunes, and will be designed so that restaurant guests enter through a tunnel - a nod by the architect to a nearby arch named after former local civil engineer Carlo Catani. The restaurant on top will have uninterrupted views of the beach and bay.

The restaurant that burnt down in January sat on Crown land, and the state government and Port Phillip Council must ultimately approve plans for a building to replace the pop-up restaurant. It sprung up weeks after the old Stokehouse was razed by a fire that took hold in the kitchen.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy and the council accelerated the planning process, in a bid to quickly get a replacement.

Frank van Haandel, the restaurant's owner, said his hospitality group wanted to leave a "contemporary legacy" on the St Kilda foreshore.

Designs by architect Robert Simeoni were chosen by the restaurant's owner.
Designs by architect Robert Simeoni were chosen by the restaurant's owner. Photo: Supplied

Four architecture firms - Denton Corker Marshall, Robert Simeoni, Sean Godsell and Jackson Clements Burrows - were shortlisted to find the best design.

Robert Simeoni is best known for Seaford Life Saving Club and the restoration of Abbotsford Convent's chapel, and Mr van Haandel said the firm's selection as preferred designers "was not based on a popularity contest". The new building needed to be "an iconic structure and an architectural statement", he said.

The new building would provide better links to the beach than the one that burnt down, and the new restaurant's placement would mean guests got St Kilda foreshore sunsets, city views and Williamstown's lights at night, he said.

Designs by architect Robert Simeoni.
Designs by architect Robert Simeoni. Photo: Supplied

Mr Simeoni said he was honoured to have the chance to work on the project because St Kilda foreshore was part of "the heart of Melbourne". He hoped his design blended architecture and the landscape "to create a little bit of mystery".

Port Phillip's acting mayor Serge Thomann said the announcement brought rebuilding the Stokehouse a step closer. The council will consider plans for the site in May.

Local architect and former Port Phillip urban design manager Jim Holdsworth commended the design, which he said "had the potential to stand as an important piece of architecture in its own right. It's a pretty rare commission for someone to get".