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Hotels as Civic Landmarks, Hotels as Assets: the case of Sydney's Hilton

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In this paper, we examine the role that hotels play in the urban economies of central business districts (CBDs). To illustrate this, we explore the biography of the Sydney Hilton, an iconic modernist building which opened in 1975 and was recently totally refurbished and rebranded. We argue that hotels can be understood as civic landmarks, where localised business elites and the local state coalesce to ensure their successful construction, and where commercial activity is understood within an ideology of civic pride. Within this context, however, the design and appearance of hotels is driven by both their use value and exchange value. We trace a biography of the Sydney Hilton through three phases of its operation, considering its place within the backdrop of the reconstitution of Sydney's CBD, and the broader urban economy. We conclude that the refurbishment of the Hilton can thus only be understood by considering wider issues of corporate brand, asset ownership and the requirements of the local state.

Keywords: Hotels; architecture; branding; urban geography; urban modernity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Western Sydney, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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