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Moving to modern

EcoSmart Fire breathes new life into acclaimed art deco fireplace.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the magnificent Manchester Unity Building has a special place in the history of Melbourne and the hearts of its citizens. So when Dr Kia Pajouhesh, managing director and principal dentist of Melbourne-based Smile Solutions and Chairman of the MUB Owner’s Corporation, took on the task of restoring this building to its original beauty, it was the beginning of a labour of love.

The building’s boardroom is considered to be the most intact Art Deco Boardroom anywhere in the world. It carries a separate heritage listing to the rest of the building, and far from being a redundant showpiece, it is a functioning boardroom.

"In many ways the boardroom is the jewel in the crown and offered us an opportunity to not only restore it to its original splendour, but to rejuvenate an aesthetically beautiful and authentic room."

Dr Pajouhesh

Recreating the fireplace

The boardroom restoration was made easier by a number of features, such as the stunning fireplace, remaining intact and the boardroom table in situ – primarily because previous developers were unable to move the almost six metre Queensland maple cross-banded with rosewood table.

The magnificent indoor fireplace occupies a distinct nook in the boardroom and was originally built as a decorative feature without a chimney or any other means of extraction. The fireplace consists of an interior of white polished marble tiles, a mantel of carved marble and a hearth of contracting pink veined marble. The grate and decorative glass stones were disposed of and a granite platform was installed. The only element missing was an actual fire.

The challenge was to find a live-burn fire system that could work within the physical constraints of the room and not challenge the heritage overlays.

An EcoSmart Fire was chosen because of its clean burn system and because it provides a vibrant flame without the need for fluing. The XL900 burner perfectly fitted the 1500mm fireplace opening and produces an animated flame that scales perfectly within a large fireplace setting.

A passionate collector of Art Deco, Dr Pajouhesh had the perfect centrepiece for his fire – a hand crafted bronze spelter, bronze sculpture of Warrior Confronting Beast (circa 1932), the year the Manchester Unity building came to life.

The fireplace and bronze sculpture are situated below a display of religious icons to provide a ‘symbolism of life.’ A polished black granite plinth was custom made to provide the platform for the ‘struggle’ of man versus beast, and a structure for the Ecosmart burner discreetly inlayed into the stone behind the sculpture.

The installation of the burner was simple, and the result is an interplay between the two key elements that is both effective and dramatic.