From an Architectural perspective, at Balance Architecture, we believe the right decision has been made. Juxtapositioning a rectangular box against the quirky eclectic design (the award winning design) of Federation Square and its buildings was never a great idea. Last week Heritage Victoria rejected plans to demolish the Yarra Building at Federation Square. And for many it will be remembered as “one of the great victories for heritage conservation in Victoria”
it didn’t seem to register with some people that the initial objections raised were in fact from the National Trust. These were backed up by the City of Melbourne Planning Department. The two State Government Ministers who proposed the project in Parliament are no longer sitting. From the outset is was economic benefit vs aesthetics. For once, this is the right result, aesthetics wins.
Here is the initial response from Felicity Watson, Advocacy Manager of the National Trust, from The Age dated April 9th
Rejection of Apple store at Fed Square a win for heritage conservation
When the National Trust nominated Federation Square to the Victorian Heritage Register, many questioned how a place that was only completed 16 years ago could be considered “heritage”. While it is unusual for a place so “young” to be considered for its heritage values, it is not unprecedented. After the completion of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, another monumental government project, it took only 14 years for it to be included in the Government Buildings Register in 1982.
Federation Square is culturally and socially significant as Victoria’s premier civic and cultural space, representing the culmination of Melbourne’s century-long search for a public square. It is our greatest monument to Federation. It is also aesthetically and architecturally significant, with a high degree of technical achievement demonstrated in its construction.
Heritage Victoria’s decision has highlighted the importance of our heritage legislation in providing a process for places of significance to be assessed. However, this legislation is only effective when governments allow due process to take its course.
The Andrews government and Fed Square Pty Ltd are to be congratulated for accepting Heritage Victoria’s decision and announcing a review into Federation Square’s governance and funding, which will include a process of community consultation.
This is what we have been asking for all along, but it shouldn’t have taken a two-year battle to get here. The Apple store was never going to be a panacea for Federation Square’s long-term viability, and we now have an opportunity to address the underlying issues at play.
Governments at all levels should take heed of this decision. Dismissing the value and importance of community input can only be a perilous exercise. The National Trust raised heritage concerns about Federation Square as early as 2016, when planning for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project was under way. Despite our concerns, no further investigation of these values was undertaken by authorities.
This motivated the National Trust to research and consult industry experts and stakeholders, which ramped up in 2017 when the proposed demolition of the Yarra building and construction of an Apple Global Flagship Store was announced. In nominating Federation Square to the Victorian Heritage Register, the National Trust’s objective was to initiate a close examination of its heritage values, and for those values to inform management and change.
While heritage protection is seen by some as an obstacle to change, good practice in heritage is not about preventing change, but about managing it appropriately. The principles of good heritage apply to planning beyond the heritage context – managing a place in a way that is informed by its purpose and values, and in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
The National Trust does not want to pickle Federation Square in aspic. We expect it will continue to evolve. The current redevelopment of ACMI is an example of how change can occur while respecting the architectural and cultural values that define Fed Square.
And while the battle for the Yarra building has been won, the permanent inclusion of Federation Square on the Victorian Heritage Register is yet to be finalised, and will be considered later in April at a hearing conducted by the state’s independent body, the Heritage Council of Victoria.
Over time, the heritage significance of Federation Square will continue to be reassessed, as its community value deepens and its broader significance becomes clearer with the benefit of hindsight.
The National Trust has been fighting for our heritage since 1956, and the battle for our heritage will only intensify as our conception of heritage broadens to encompass more recent architecture, and development pressures continue.
And earlier in the first reporting of the issue and its resolution in an article on the 5th of April in The Age, a broader perspective where the positions of various players such as Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp, Councillors Rohan Leppert and Nick Reece (opposing views) are exposed.
Apple store plans shelved after heritage authorities say ‘no’
A plan to build an Apple store at Federation Square has been shelved, after heritage authorities refused an application to demolish part of the existing square.
Apple will not proceed with its plan, and the Andrews government will now review the operation of Federation Square.
The Koorie Heritage Trust, which includes an Aboriginal art gallery, was to make way for Apple and be relocated elsewhere in the square. It will instead remain where it is, for now.
Heritage Victoria on Friday issued a refusal to Federation Square management, which had applied to knock down the Yarra Building to make way for an “Apple Global Flagship Store”.
Heritage Victoria’s ruling found the Apple store would have been “visually dominant”, and that demolition of the Yarra Building would have “diminished” the public square.
Heritage groups and a Melbourne City councillor who had vehemently opposed the Apple plan welcomed the decision, saying the Apple plan had been inappropriate for Melbourne.
An Apple spokeswoman said the company was disappointed, and would no longer pursue its Federation Square plan.
The National Trust nominated Federation Square to the Victorian Heritage Register last August, in a bid to stop the Yarra Building’s demolition.
This forced Fed Square management to ask heritage authorities if the Apple plan could proceed. It is understood the tech giant from then on was fearful of the public backlash to its plans.
In December last year though, Federation Square management forged on, applying to Heritage Victoria for a permit to demolish the Yarra Building for Apple.
The redevelopment would have added about 500 square metres of extra open space to Federation Square, and would have better linked the square to the Yarra River.
National Trust chief executive Simon Ambrose said his group had not opposed development at Federation Square, but that the Apple proposal “fell far short” of what was required.
“The National Trust’s [heritage] nomination of Federation Square … provided a vital opportunity to reflect on its cultural and architectural significance to the state,” he said.
Thousands of objections to the Apple plan poured in to heritage authorities while they were assessing the proposal. The 3418 submissions received were the most Heritage Victoria had got over a proposal.
Melbourne City Council’s Rohan Leppert, the deputy chair of planning and a Greens member, has been highly critical of the Apple plan.
“The entire planning process for the demolition of the Yarra Building to [construct] an Apple store has been a long-running farce, but common sense has finally corrected the state government’s folly,” he said.
The proposal has been a recurring problem for the Andrews government since it announced the plan out of the blue days before Christmas 2017.
Those initial plans were re-worked in 2018, but opposition to the Apple proposal continued, with community group Our City Our Square running a spirited campaign against it.
While one of the original architects behind the original plan for Federation Square, Donald Bates, had been supportive of the demolition plan from the outset, last month his design partner Peter Davidson spoke out for the first time against the Apple plan.
Tania Davidge, the president of the group that launched the Our City, Our Square campaign, said Federation Square was “much more than bricks and mortar”, and it was great news the demolition would not take place.
Heritage researcher James Lesh said the decision meant Victoria’s system had worked: “Heritage Victoria has reflected community aspirations and conserved exactly what makes this place important,” he said.
Labor city councillor Nick Reece, who chairs the planning committee, had remained supportive of a revamped Apple plan for Federation Square in the face of this opposition. He opposed demolition of the Yarra Building, though.
Lord mayor Sally Capp had also been privately supportive of the Apple plan, but had never had to reveal her position publicly because she took a donation from the chairperson of Federation Square, Deborah Beale, during her 2018 town hall campaign.
Architecture speaks to the world of our city’s character. Stand on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. Look around you. What a wonderful conjunction of styles, eras and shapes. The stately magnificence of St Paul’s Cathedral, the royal bearing of the Flinders Street Station Dome, Young and Jackson’s and the people’s square – Federation Square. It’s Melbourne. Cross the Princes Bridge and look back. This is truly a world class city. Heritage – it’s worth preserving, it’s worth saving – it’s who we are and where we’ve come from. It’s living. It’s now. And this, there is no doubt, is the right result.