The current plan to remove part of the Federation Square, demolish it to provide space for a new Apple Mega Store has met with, to put it mildly, a mixed reaction. Already many people have expressed their dismay and disappointment in what may well be described as vandalism of the public space we have come to know as ‘Federation Square’.
It is not about the architectural merit of the proposed Apple building, nor is it about the fact that there are already commercial activities in the precinct.
It is purely about the functional and visual integrity of Federation Square which is now widely accepted as an iconic, world class public space. And it would appear that Heritage Victoria is in broad agreement with this proposition. It has now recommended that the square be protected by adding it to the Victorian Heritage Register.
For those who do not appreciate the precinct or its features, please recognise that a great number of people actually do appreciate and value it and what’s more enjoy it in its entirety. This discussion is not about whether it ‘should have been built’ rather it is in recognition of its unique and highly regarded design and unique features, and whether its integrity should be protected from random partial demolition.
Here is a report from The Age 17/10/2018
Heritage tick for Fed Square jeopardises Apple store plans
Apple’s plan to raze part of Federation Square to build a mega-store has been thrown into disarray by a heritage recommendation for the landmark.
Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery will on Thursday recommend the square be protected by adding it to the Victorian Heritage Register.
Federation Square, completed in 2002, should get heritage protection because of its “historical, architectural, aesthetic, cultural and technical significance to the state”, Mr Avery found.
Premier Daniel Andrews in December gave the nod to plans to demolish Federation Square’s Yarra building so the tech giant could construct a “global flagship store” – one of only five in the world.
Current tenant the Koorie Heritage Trust would be moved elsewhere within Federation Square so that Apple could take the prime Yarra River frontage.
While Thursday’s recommendation will deal a body blow to the Andrews government’s plans for Federation Square, it does not automatically stop the project.
The heritage recommendation by Mr Avery will now be advertised for 60 days, during which time objections and offers of support can be made.
Federation Square’s board, which has thrown its full support behind the Apple plan, may formally oppose Heritage Victoria’s decision.
After the 60 days, a final decision about the square’s inclusion will be made by the Heritage Council of Victoria – an independent statutory body.
The Age understands the Heritage Council is highly likely to support Federation Square’s inclusion on the heritage register.
The application to protect the square was made by the National Trust in July.
After making the nomination, National Trust chief executive Simon Ambrose said the square was one of Australia’s “finest examples of 21st-century architecture” that had “become a place where the people of Victoria and visitors can celebrate our history, diversity, identity and culture”.
Thursday’s recommendation by Mr Avery will not prevent Federation Square’s future redevelopment – but if approved will add a layer of political difficulty that may ultimately scuttle the Apple plan.
The Age revealed in January that a battle had erupted within Mr Andrews’ cabinet over Apple’s demand to be handed the prime location within Melbourne’s chief civic square.
Three senior ministers, including Planning Minister Richard Wynne and Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley, argued against approving the store.
Both are in marginal seats where, while Apple products are extremely popular, support for the multinational might not be seen as a political positive.
The Apple deal was spruiked within government by Tourism Minister John Eren and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis.
In a statement issued to The Age about the decision to be announced on Thursday, the planning department noted that Federation Square would not be unusual in getting heritage protection despite its completion only 16 years ago.
“There are a number are examples of places recognised as having state level heritage significance soon after their completion, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre,” the statement said.
While there has been a theoretical freeze put on works at Federation Square since the National Trust’s heritage protection application, a permit was issued last month to demolish the Melbourne Information Centre.
It will go to make way for a new underground railway station being built as part of the Metro Tunnel project.
It is an extraordinary set of buildings with a truly unique and interesting design that is in fact world renowned. Destroying a section of it for the benefit of a multi-national corporation simply doesn’t make sense. It is after all a public space owned and operated by and for all Victorians. Let’s hope sanity prevails and it remains structurally intact for future generations to enjoy.