The Federation Square debacle rages on with new rulings from the Melbourne City Council rejecting Apple’s current plan outright, and one of the original award-winning architects on the precinct’s original design speaking out against the proposed demolition of the Yarra Building. Architect Peter Davidson’s opposition contrasts with his former partner at LAB Architecture, Donald Bates.
It is now up to Heritage Victoria to decide whether to agree to the demolition.
Here is the report on the Melbourne City Council deliberations…
Melbourne City Council opposes demolishing key Fed Square building
Melbourne City Council has voted to oppose the demolition of a key building in Federation Square in order to build an Apple megastore after receiving more than 1100 submissions from concerned Victorians.
The State Government shocked Melbourne by announcing days before Christmas in 2017 that part of the city’s civic square would be knocked down so Apple could build one of only five “global flagship stores” in the world.
Federation Square management has applied for a waiver of heritage rules to demolish the Yarra building in order to construct the new building.
A spokesman for Citizens for Melbourne, which has been coordinating the Our City, Our Square campaign, said on Tuesday night that more than 100,000 people had signed petitions opposing the Apple store and more than 1100 had provided submissions to the council.
“The proposed Apple store … does not respond to the existing architecture of the square nor to the design thinking that informed its original design,” architect Michael Smith said.
“The proposed building will act as a spatial billboard for the Apple brand in a place with minimal signage and no overt advertising and branding.”
Citizens for Melbourne asked the council to go one step forward and petition the State Government to take over custodianship of Federation Square and “protect it as our town square”.
Cr Rohan Leppert said local heritage policy was very clear that “we should resist the demolition” of the Yarra building.
He noted the 1100 community submissions, saying: “It is not just a numbers game … but none of us are blind to the opinion and sentiment that has been expressed over the last few days and shouted in our direction.”
Cr Leppert said the council was not having a proxy debate about the preferred management model of Federation Square, but it was “worth noting how many people have spoken about the issue”.
Cr Nicholas Reece said while he supported an Apple store at Federation Square the Yarra building site needed to maintain its “campus style character”.
“The reason why management are crying out for an Apple store is because the business model is really struggling and they need the revenue,” Cr Reece said. “If it was done right the Apple store … wouldn’t lead to the corporatisation of Federation Square.
He said most importantly for him, however, was that “we should keep the geometric stonework pattern because it has become so iconic and a sort of motif for Melbourne”.
“To see that completely removed from the building is something I could not come at,” he said.
The only councillor not to oppose the demolition of the Yarra building was Cr Philip Le Liu.
He said the proposed Apple store, which would be smaller than the existing Yarra building, meant there would be 500 metres of extra open space for the city.
Cr Le Liu said architect Donald Bates had always said the Yarra building would be for a commercial purpose.
“I remember people saying whatever is going to be there is going to be an ugly building. I remember the same thing in 2002 when Federation Square came on, people said it was ugly and strange and no one would like it. And yet here we are,” Cr Le Liu said.
In responding to concerns about the commercialisation of Federation Square, Cr Le Liu said: “What about cafes, restaurants, shops does that mean we also get rid of them? This is a very difficult decision.”
It is now up to Heritage Victoria to decide whether to agree to the demolition.
And it’s worth reading this report on the thoughts and objections of original LAB Architecture’s winning design Architect Peter Davidson. This report was published prior to the Council meeting.
‘Terrible’: Apple plan slammed by a Fed Square designer
One of the architects who designed Federation Square has spoken out for the first time against plans to demolish one of the square’s key buildings to build an Apple mega-store.
Architect Peter Davidson was one of two designers behind Federation Square when it was commissioned by then premier Jeff Kennett in the 1997.
Completed in 2002 amid much criticism, many have come to love the square’s landmark buildings and public spaces.
Now, on the cusp of a decision on whether to allow one of the square’s buildings to be demolished for Apple, Mr Davidson has voiced his opposition.
Mr Davidson had a stroke in 2010. While he has largely recovered, he lost his ability to communicate easily.
Approached by The Age for his views on the Apple project, Mr Davidson provided a transcribed statement outlining his opposition to demolition of Federation Square’s Yarra building.
In the Yarra building’s place, under a plan designed by British architecture firm Foster and Partners, a new Apple “global flagship store” would be built.
The new building, exclusively for Apple, would help deliver more public space and better integration between the Yarra River and the square.
Mr Davidson said he would support the plan if Apple, instead of demolishing the building, chose to move into it.
He said the public had not been adequately consulted before the state government decided to hand the space to the technology giant.
And Mr Davidson said he had not been consulted by Apple or Federation Square management before the announcement was made. He said he should have been asked.
Asked his view of the Foster and Partners building to replace his and partner Donald Bates’ original design, Mr Davidson said: “It’s terrible. It’s a different type of architecture altogether.”
Mr Davidson’s step-daughter, Daine Singer, said that though he had lost much of his ability to communicate since his stroke, his architectural knowledge, cognitive faculties and strong opinions were intact.
She said he felt strongly that the Yarra building should not be demolished. “Before his stroke, he would’ve been down there giving press conferences, yelling and screaming,” she said.
Mr Davidson’s opposition is in contrast to his former LAB architecture partner, Mr Bates, whose support for the Apple plan has regularly been used by the Victorian government to rebuff critics.
Mr Davidson said that he was not opposed to altering the square to suit the city’s changing needs. And he agreed the interface between the square and the river could be improved.
His views on the demolition appear in tune with a flood of submissions from the public to heritage authorities, as they weigh up whether to let it proceed.
The state planning department said Heritage Victoria, the body that recommends historic building protection, received more than 3300 public submissions opposing demolition. “This is likely to be the most received,” a spokesman said.
On Tuesday, Melbourne City Council will vote on whether to oppose demolition of the Yarra building. Federation Square management have applied for a waiver of heritage rules to knock it down.
A council officers’ report said demolition should not be allowed because the Apple store “does not successfully form part of an assembly of campus buildings, rather due to its architecture and siting, it presents as a stand-alone building”.
“The proposed replacement building does not adequately contribute to the cultural and heritage significance, character and appearance of Federation Square and does not satisfy the requirements of local heritage policy.”
It would appear that there is much public consternation over both the planning and projected outcomes for the Apple project. Frankly, it’s hard to accept that adding an entirely new design to the precinct is in the best interests of the integrity of Federation Square and its precinct.