Pop-up art hotel with a social conscience takes over abandoned Civic office building | HerCanberra

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Pop-up art hotel with a social conscience takes over abandoned Civic office building

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Mottainai: a Japanese word used to express a feeling of regret when something is put to waste without deriving its value.

Canberra’s hotel scene is now truly innovative and hectically cool as Hotel Mottainai opens its doors.

Abandoning the idea of a generic room fit-out, the hotel offers one suite only, built within an abandoned office building in the centre of Civic and exposing guests to an immersive art experience with an adjoining art gallery next door. While the gallery will be a commercial operation, profits generated from the hotel’s charge will be donated to the YWCA Canberra to help it address homelessness across Canberra.

The hotel will provide a commentary on finding shelter in abandoned spaces, reusing and repurposing furniture and showcasing the work of local artists after the rigours of the pandemic.

Hotel Mottainai is the brainchild of husband and wife team Ronan and Clare Moss. Ronan is the Director of Cox Architecture, while Clare is former actor and theatre professional who now works with The Smith Family.

“It’s absolutely a passion project,” says Clare, noting that the entire concept has been made possible due to the generosity of everyone from the building developer HTI, which has given the couple access to the second-floor space for the next six months before the building is demolished, to Shape commercial fit outs, Stylecraft, Ronbo Glass and Lightbulb Studio, among others.

Apart from brand new bed and bedding and towels, the living room, kitchen and bedroom are fitted out in re-purposed materials, second-hand, donated and recycled furniture.

“The concept calls attention to empty space in an age of homelessness and escalating house prices, recycling in an age of excess, art in an age of disconnection and is all powered by the strength of community mobilisation,” according to Clare.

The most striking part of the hotel stay is the exposure to art, from the 360-degree street art foyer to the graffitied bathroom, to the canvas, photographic, sculptural and lightbox installations dotted around the living spaces. Every corner of the large space is carefully curated which makes it hard to even focus on the 180-degree views of Civic and the ANU on offer through the windows.

But the most unique artistic experience of an overnight stay at Hotel Mottainai is the large internal windows connecting the hotel suite to a commercial gallery—most dramatically projecting enormous video screens which can be viewed from bed.

The exhibiting artists will be rotated throughout the duration of the project, exploring various mediums, forms, influences and social issues.

The rooms also feature carefully selected artwork from local artists and creators that can be purchased.

Hotel Mottainai will open with exhibiting artists Alex James and Ronan Moss and supporting artists Jared Haydon and Ben McDonald.

Clare and Ronan are hoping that the commissions from art sales will support Hotel Mottenai to continue its work raising funds and awareness of homelessness.

When the pop-up hotel needs to move on from its London Circuit space, the couple hopes to replicate the experience in another disused office space.

“The art, experience and cause are inextricably linked,” said Clare. “We hope that Hotel Mottainai can pop up in another location once this building is demolished. We want to keep pushing the boundaries of the experience and raising money for the YWCA.”

While it had been a scramble to create rooms within a disused office space, Clare and Ronan said the transformation experience had been more than they could have ever expected. Sunlight floods the space and there is even an easel set up in one corner for anyone suddenly gripped by their own artistic inclinations.

Clare and Ronan have also been amazed by the level of support from the community for their idea to give back and promote greater awareness of the impact of homelessness.

“All of our collaborators have engaged in a cyclical economy, barter system or have made pro bono contributions. These individuals and organisations have generously donated their time, skills and materials, brought together by a common cause and motivated to drive community mobilisation among other contributors,” said Ronan

Hotel Mottainai will operate through Airbnb and can be booked here for around $170 a night.

It is located at 13 London Circuit, Civic and its website is hotelmottainai.com.au.

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