Controversial Developments in Melbourne

From the outset I should make clear one thing, I am the principal architect with Balance Architecture and Interior Design and I have achieved considerable success as a recognised Heritage Architect. In partnership with well known Interior Designer Amanda Richmond, at Balance we are capable of returning your period home faithfully to its former glory in every detail – yet ensure comfort, luxury and the space you require to enjoy modern living.

Controversy continually stalks new developments in Melbourne, and not without cause. Here are a few for you to ponder.

Collins Arch

Collins Arch is a project located on the old National Mutual site bounded by Collins St, Williams St, Market St and Flinders Lane in the south western corner of the Melbourne CBD.

An island site of 5926sqm, it was originally proposed by  Architects Woods Bagot that a singular 295m skyscraper would be constructed. This was rejected by planning Authorities as it was deemed far to high for the location. Woods Bagot and the New York Stop Architects group submitted an amended plan that featured two towers linked at their maximum height by a ‘skybridge’, joining the residential tower to the commercial tower.

The City of Melbourne approved of and applauded the project, however the Planning Authority of the Victorian State Government rejected the plan as well. This occurred on the basis that any building above 24 stories must have State Government approval as well as Council approval. The original reason for rejection was that the tower would cast a shadow over the Yarra River completely to the southern bank for most of the day throughout the full year except during the height of summer.

Wood Bagot reduced the height of the tower to appease this consideration and the project gained approval in April 2016.

The project will provide the city’s first real ‘mixed use precinct’ of residential and commercial usage. It will feature luxury apartments, a five star hotel, WELL (standard) rated offices and over 2000sqm of open public space. You may remember from previous blogs that this site was in fact the location of the ‘Western Markets’ for fruit and vegetables during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Construction of this project commenced in October 2016. This project is a perfect example of the dilemmas architects face in melding older existing buildings and features with a new cutting edge structure. And of course in the end it does come down to personal taste.

William Barak Building

The second project for your consideration is the new ‘William Barak’ building. You may recall the description of the Carlton and United Brewery located in Carlton. For a number of years it has stood as a huge vacant site. Its most recent prominence was connected to the tragic collapse due to high winds of the allotment fencing resulting in multiple fatalities.

The building planned for the site is a 32 storey residential apartment building that will feature a massive image of William Barak, an indigenous man from the Wurnundjeri/Woiwurrung people. William Barak was a well known indigenous activist, artist, a diplomat and an elder passing down oral knowledge from many generations. His closeup image will now bear witness on this huge building to what has become of the lands he and his ancestors have inhabited for thousands of years. Architects Ashton Raggat McDougall (ARM)have worked this incredible portrait into what would otherwise be a rather tall residential apartment building. It becomes a powerful site for reflection and memory.

Or is it? The struggle of indigenous people over many years, including Barak’s lifetime has been for landrights. It seems odd that his memory is lauded with a 32 storey luxury apartment building.

Barak witnessed in his lifetime the colonisation of Victoria with over 1.2 million people arriving in the new colony from the time of his birth in 1824 to his death in 1903. So in this instance I’ll defer to you the reader and suggest ‘you be the judge’.

In any case there are quite a few new buildings gaining approval for construction in Melbourne right now.

Next week will review Crown’s new building plans for a 90 storey Hotel, the new Victorian Police Tower planned near Southern Cross Station and some of the newer controversial constructions such as Southern Cross and – Federation Square.

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