The Flagship Issue
Architect Victoria 2018 autumn .
$14.90 Official Journal of the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter Print Post approved PP 381667-00206 â€˘ ISSN 1329-1254 .
ENGINEERING TO SHAPE THE WAY WE LIVE Expertise in structural, civil, building services, environmentally sustainable design, facade, traffic transport & parking and waste engineering solutions. 3
1. La Trobe University, Donald Whitehead Building Hayball (image Dianna Snape)
2. Nightingale 3
Austin Maynard Architects
3. Monash University, Learning and Teaching Building
John Wardle Architects (image Trevor Mein)
4. Moorabbin Reserve Redevelopment
Williams Ross Architecture (image Chris Matterson)
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Architect Victoria 2018 autumn 02 03 06 08 11 14 16 18 20 22 25 28 32 35
President’s message Chapter news Editorial Article by Donald Bates Sophie Cleland On democracy From the Office of the Victorian Government Architect Article by Philip Goad Article by Thisuni Welihinda Slice New projects Profile Alex Lake of Therefore Studio Article by Dimity Reed Jim Gard'ner On Apple's heritage Ian Woodcock On Planning and process Letters
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President’s message —
With all change comes debate
Debate and disagreement are incredibly healthy, and their friction allows for evolution to occur. It allows for ideas that we value not to go unchecked or unnoticed. It allows for a space of many voices. For situations not to be accepted for what they are, but rather rigorously tested in order to allow for further change to be encouraged and made. Not accepting the status quo. It is great to see this edition, guest edited by Michael Smith, doing just that. At the time of being built, Federation Square ignited public debate across the city and state. The public were deeply concerned about the proposed design and budget overruns. At the time I remember being excited by the fact that the public were actively engaged in public debate and discussion associated with architecture. This was a very good thing irrespective of what the issues were. The building was built and then embraced by the public. It was awarded many state and national awards in recognition of its architectural contribution to the city of Melbourne. It was a building designed of many parts to be read as one. As we can all appreciate, as a formal outcome, this can be precarious if parts become redundant. There might be a tendency to erode rather than considering the whole. The whole might be forgotten even if it is only a very small part that is being impacted. We all understand that once we start chipping away at something the original intent is at risk of being diluted. As architects we are keen for holistic understandings of place and the value it brings to the public realm and community at large to be engrained in our everyday thinking. Therefore, the masterplan is an incredibly important tool for proposing and managing change. The many voices that are brought to the table within this edition of Architect Victoria provide a balanced and broad set of views of the issues at stake. This is important, and I would like to thank all contributors for their input and passion in the advocacy of architecture and the role it plays within our city realm.
Victorian Chapter President Amy Muir
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Chapter news —
From the executive director Ruth White The breadth of the Chapter activities is extensive but from an internal perspective, the first quarter of the year is largely focused on Awards season. Without meaning to hijack the Awards Committee report, I thought a behind-the-scenes look at some pre-award ceremony statistics might provide some insight as to the coordination and contributors required to make this cycle so exciting and intriguing. So, buckle up! •
268 award entries (20 per cent increase from 2017)
3 days presenting to Juries (one additional day)
58 entries in the Interiors category (increase of 24 in 2017)
51 regional entries
14 Juries (including 4 roving)
14 graduate jurors (new initiative)
108 shortlisted entries
134 site visits
DKO had the most award entries (8)
Congratulations to everyone involved that ensures this is the signature event for the Vic Chapter. We look forward to a big night and the big reveal on June 29!
Awards committee Amy Muir With autumn comes the race to the finish line. Presentations to the Juries commenced on Friday 23 March at 41X. There was a record number of submissions, representing a 20 per cent increase from last year. The Interior Architecture Award category was the most hotly contested followed by the Residential Architecture – House (Alterations and additions) category. We would like to thank the University of Melbourne and Professor Donald Bates for their kind hospitality and accommodating the additional requirement of opening the event to the public as part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne
Design Week. The day ran extremely smoothly thanks to efforts of the Institute Awards staff Jason Stanton and Kelsey Calder, the Executive Director of the Victorian Chapter Ruth White, the Institute team, and student volunteers who assisted enormously in keeping presentations to time. Next is the Exhibition of Entries, which will be held again at No Vacancy Gallery and on 21 May and will run until 3 June. This year the shortlist for the awards will be announced at the official opening of the exhibition on the 24 May. The 2018 Awards Presentations Dinner will be held at our old stomping ground the Peninsular Docklands on Friday 29 June. Tickets for both events can be purchased online. We would like to congratulate all 2018 entrants for their extraordinary efforts. We look forward to celebrating the collective achievements.
Emerging architects graduate network – EmAGN Camilla Tierney As with the start of a new year, so too is the start of a fresh new committee. With a few legacy members, there are some new faces and we see this as an exciting time for EmAGN. Joining me as Co-Chair is Monique Woodward. Our first event, the EmAGN forum, was presented by Peter Elliot on the important topic of communication, discussing the nuances of discussion and being able to lead the client to the inevitable. By being able to take them on the journey, without blurting it all out before you get there. Very wise words from a leading Australian architect. Thanks to Kosloff Architects for hosting the event. In April we evolved our annual portfolio review into Promote Me: getting one-on-one advice from some of Melbourne’s best architects. Giving graduates the personal advice they need to advance their careers. Many thanks to John Wardle Architects who let us utilise their wonderful office for the night. With more events for the year, we are hoping to continually evolve
Chapter news —
with new events for the Emerging Architects and Graduates Network.
Practice of architecture report Kim Irons In March we initiated a meeting with Victorian representatives of the Planning Institute of Australia and Building Surveyors Institute to discuss processes and actions that can support our respective institutes and members. It was proposed that, where significant state issues affect us all, we collaborate to provide greater strength to our individual voices and develop initiatives in our efforts to provide a high quality built environment. In day-to-day activity, we initiated more Practice Odd Spots highlighting issues affecting architecture, practice and the profession. We will be reviewing the Acumen note Private commissions and other notes regarding client behaviour. As with all committees, we endeavour to keep fresh perspectives by alternating committee members. Albert Mo has stepped down as Medium Practice Forum representative. We would like to thank him for his insight to challenges; and great humour! As I too step aside as Chapter representative, it is opportune to recognise the input of the committee members who offer valuable time and insight, not for their own status, but toward the betterment and future of the profession. I have learnt much from them all and wish them success in their commitment to the ‘members in the delivery of quality architecture, professional practice outcomes, sharing of learning and mentoring and sustainable built environments’.
Regional report Kim Irons Architecture is busy across the state, especially as government elections trigger commitments to regional spending. Over the summer, our regional groups continued to meet and learn from each other exploring issues associated with town planning, heritage and the different methodologies for dealing with the sketch design and design development stages of our core services. The increased attention to regional areas offers an opportunity for a greater voice for the regional forums to address key issues in their context. Local planning, procurement and architectural events offer opportunity for the groups to directly engage with their respective communities and authorities and increase the value of architecture outside greater Melbourne. It is anticipated that 2018 will allow us to meet with local authorities regarding procurement and local content, and encourage better design through design review and advice tools.
Student organised network for architecture – SONA
Over the past few months, the Education Committee has dedicated their time to discuss the changes to the higher-degree accreditation, with the new Australia and New Zealand Architecture Program Accreditation
The Student Organised Network for Architecture’s (SONA) first event Between Black and White Portfolio Speed Dating was hosted by Gray
Puksand in Melbourne. It comprised of 20 architects from Melbourne’s leading architecture firms and 35 students from Melbourne, Deakin, Monash and RMIT universities. Students presented their portfolios to each architect and received feedback to prepare them for future job interviews. The event proved to be a huge success, being SONA’s biggest Portfolio event yet. SONA aims to continue delivering quality events to our members, allowing them to take advantage of opportunities to become a successful generation of future architects. Keep up-to-date with our events by following our state Instagram and Facebook pages.
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Procedure coming into effect this year. Schools reported on the brief introduction given by the AACA earlier this year and then debated how those changes might affect preparation for accreditation. The Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne will be the first Victorian program to go through the accreditation system in its new format in October this year. Their feedback about the process will provide useful insights to the other Victorian institutions. The new system will also affect Swinburne University who started their new Bachelor of Architecture degree and aims for accreditation before graduating their first cohort of students. Representatives from the program followed an invitation by the Education Committee to join a recent meeting and introduce the program in more detail. Next, to conversations surrounding the new accreditation model, the Education Committee helped facilitate the 2018 Victorian Graduate Prize that was awarded earlier in March at the University of Melbourne. Running for the second time in its current format, the prize celebrates the best work by graduates across all accredited Victorian architecture programs. Jury members Amy Muir, Sophie Cleland, Christon Batey-Smith and Maria Fullaondo had a difficult task in choosing their favourite from a total of 12 shortlisted entries. This year’s winner, Bradley Mitchell, stems from RMIT University and he impressed the jury with his study on Efflorescence and liturgy of suburban irritation. The Jury also awarded three commendations, namely for (in no particular order) Amalina Ab Aziz (University of Melbourne), Shavendra Goonetilleke (University of Melbourne), and Yadamsuren Idenbayar (Monash University). Thank you to the Melbourne School of Design for hosting and to our generous supporting partners Bates Smart, Fender Katsalidis, Hayball, Grimshaw Architects and the Architects Registration Board of Victoria.
The Chapter hosted a two-day workshop by the National Education Committee in late April where the role of the Institute to support life-long learning by architectural professionals took centre-stage. The outcome of the workshop will help to shape the key themes discussed by the Education Committee on a local chapter level for months to come.
Large practice forum Tim Leslie After a significant hiatus, the Victorian Large Practice Forum has been reassembled. The revised format includes six ambassador firms, as custodians for two years (the term of a Chapter Councilor), at which point a new set of ambassador firms will be nominated. The ambassador firms will set and drive topics for investigation and host a forum. Each year there will be three forums open to all large practices, and three limited to ambassador firms and invited guests only. The rationale behind this is to augment and pair, the traditional guest-lecture style format with a smaller, focused, intimate discourse forum to drive outcomes. With over 30 large practices, it simply isn’t possible to have a round-table discussion with outcome-focused clarity. The proposal is to alternate a guest lecture and issue-raising forum, for all practices, with a smaller group of six firms debating the featured topic in greater detail. Key to the success of these sessions is the inclusion of the Institute’s president and professional development team, Office of the Government Architect (OVGA), and other influencers/stakeholders. This will provide them with direct insights into the complexity of issues facing larger practices and support their lobbying on our behalf with government and other agencies. The repositioning of the forum occurred late last year when practices were invited to become an inaugural ambassador firm. For transparency, the selection of these practices was based on my own professional friendship with a director
or partner at that firm. Thankfully, they all graciously agreed to the role. This year we kicked off at Bates Smart’s office, with an openlecture style event on novation, open to all large practices. In line with the agreed format, Bates Smart gave a short presentation on a current design, prior to the key presentation by Wendy Poulton from Informed. Bates Smart then presented a short piece on some of issues facing architectural practices through novation. The second forum was held at Hassell’s studio, as a focused discussion on novation. Hassell gave a short presentation on a current project prior to launching into a session on design intent prior to novation. The sessions were warmly received and illustrate the potential of a collegiate approach to discussing and lobbying as a professional group, to improve commercial fairness and architectural integrity. The next session will be held at Lyons’ studio and will be an openlecture format welcoming all large practices. I would like to thank the 2018/19 ambassador firms for their support in ensuring the forum’s success: Bates Smart; Cox Architecture; Hassell; John Wardle Architects; Lyons; and Woods Bagot. I would also like to thank the Institute, OVGA and Wendy Poulton for their support.
The flagship issue Words by Michael Smith
The proposal to demolish the Yarra Building at Federation Square for an Apple flagship store was presented by politicians as a done deal. The notification came out of the blue, just days before Christmas. Now accustomed to the quirks and character of the once futuristic design, an update was being demanded of us, complete with hidden terms and conditions. The update was also publicised by the Victorian State Government with images that the public believed was the design, not a design in progress, or ‘a placeholder’ design as was later described by Professor Donald Bates – one of Federation Square’s original architects. As a consequence, this publication will not be a critique of the placeholder design. Design critique must occur, but with the final design still to be released, there are other fundamental questions that first must be addressed. The flagship issue. Is it acceptable for a corporate multinational to have a flagship retail store in our public square? Or to look at it from the other side, is it acceptable for our public square to be a flagship for a corporate multinational? These questions are not exclusively for experts, it is one for our democracy. As architects we are on solid ground applying our expertise to questions of design, but a social licence for Apple to operate in our public square must come from the people. Just hours after the December announcement, community opposition to the idea was forming. By excluding the public from any consultation, politicians were left in the dark about the extent of community sentiment. In the weeks after the announcement, over 100,000 people signed online petitions calling for the project to be scrapped. In February a new community association, Citizens for Melbourne, was formed as a group determined to advocate for public space, and against the Apple proposal.
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This issue of Architect Victoria aims to dissect the controversy from a series of professional viewpoints. With this objective in mind, this issue presents different perspectives on this multifaceted question. Foster + Partners, the architects facilitating the change, were given the opportunity to have their voice heard for the first time on how they are responding to this complex and challenging brief. This opportunity was respectfully declined due to client-privacy requirements, which in itself provides an interesting test of the public/private boundary of the proposal. Professor Donald Bates surprised many with his support for the Apple store proposal from the outset. As one of Federation Square’s original architects, he is very well placed to offer deeper insight into the DNA of Federation Square. Writing on the value of Federation Square to our democratic society is Sophie Cleland, Principal at ARM Architecture, who is at the forefront of architecture in the public realm. Her design expertise has seen her involvement in numerous vital public spaces across Australia. Philip Goad is a clear authority when it comes to architecture in Melbourne. His deep understanding of the architectural development of our capital city makes his voice essential to unpacking the issues presented by the Apple proposal. Providing another important voice is Thisuni Welihinda, who presents a view from a younger generation. The millennials have a very different relationship with technology but also with Federation Square, which is itself a millennial. Technology has always been a strong influence on this generation and for them Federation Square has always been there. The political aspect of the Apple proposal is covered by Dimity Reed, a past president of the Victorian Chapter of the Institute. In addition to having run an architecture practice, Reed has been a political advisor, and is also a frequent commentator in the
media on built-environment issues. The demolition of the Yarra Building, is one of the more controversial components of the Apple store proposal. While from an environmental perspective, putting a 17-year-old building in landfill is clearly undesirable, there is a question regarding the heritage value of a culturally significant, yet comparatively youthful building. To investigate the heritage questions is Jim Gard’ner, Director of GMJ Heritage and former Executive Director of Heritage Victoria. Perhaps the most universally condemned aspects of the Apple store proposal is the lack of public process. Discussing the wider implications of this planning approval process is Dr Ian Woodcock, from RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research. Finally, the claim from politicians is that the flagship store will put Melbourne on the map. To close out the discourse is a collection of international correspondents, Robert Grace (Paris), Hank Koning (Santa Monica) and Grant Marani (New York) who are responding to the stated international significance of the proposal. Regardless of your own view, it is clear that the future of
Melbourne’s premier public square is up for debate right now. Is it a future tech-hub of international acclaim, or a future white-elephant monument to old technology? Is it a vibrant and sustainable cornerstone of Melbourne’s public realm, or just another urban precinct? When future generations look back at the decision in the decades to come, they will see what the people of Melbourne valued. Will Federation Square be a public space led by a robust cultural and civic purpose, or an activity precinct drawing upon the prevailing capitalist and technological forces of our times? Michael Smith is an architect, writer, advocate and activist. He is a codirector of emerging architecture practice Atelier Red+Black. As a writer he is best known for the Red+Black Architect website, which advocates for an equitable and well-designed built environment, through opinion pieces and interviews. Michael is a committee member of the Citizens for Melbourne Association, who are the instigators of the Our City, Our Square campaign against the Apple flagship store proposal for Federation Square.
Above Federation Square competition board by LAB Architecture. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.
The public and the professional Words by Donald Bates
This has been one of the most difficult articles I have ever tried to write. My apologies to the editors for my constant delays in delivering this text. It is not because of the subject matter or the position I wish to support, but because many of the issues, many of the arguments I might draw upon have been stated and re-stated many, many times over the last five months – publicly, in print and in innumerable small conversations or arguments. So, I have come to this task feeling I know exactly what to say and what I want to say, but struggling to find a fresh take, a new energy by which to return to the debate around Federation Square and the proposed Apple flagship store. I have reviewed the dozen or more articles and texts in The Age, ArchitectureAU, and other sources, from a variety of writers and commentators, many of them
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in opposition to the Victorian State Government decision to proceed with replacing the Yarra Building at Federation Square with a Foster + Partners designed flagship store. I have made pages of notes and highlighted sections showing obvious gaps in the logic of their opposing declarations, their analysis and their histories. But producing line-by-line rebuttals, a textual deconstruction of such documents, seems all too academic and if anything, just not worth the effort. Highlighting the gaps, the unsupportable statements and simple misreading of past events is rarely convincing when outrage and righteousness are energy sources of an opposition. I have previously, in several fora, broadcasts and publications, noted my position on:
A misunderstanding of contemporary urban/public space and its relationship to commercial activity and why Federation Square works the way it does.
The fact that the Yarra Building itself (previously titled the South Commercial Building) was a late addition to the design of Federation Square and was specifically proposed to have a major retail tenant – such as a major bookstore, or even an Apple store (c. 2002).
The constraints that meant the plaza did not interface with Princes Walk and the Yarra River as well as it could have, and how the new design addresses those deficiencies.
The imperative for Federation Square to have a more sustainable economic model for operation and a tenant such as Apple being appropriate and synergetic.
Confidence that the final design of Foster + Partners will offer a formal response that is appropriate to Federation Square, and one that is not a faux version of LAB Architecture.
That the operations, the ambience, the public functioning of Federation Square will not be impacted in a negative way with the addition of both a new building at the location of the Yarra Building and with the inclusion of Apple as the tenant. It is quite possible that some (perhaps many) see these justifications of support for the Victorian State Government, Federation Square Pty Ltd and Apple in this matter as opinion. As just my opinion in respect to each point, and just my opinion against many other counter-positions or alternative opinions. Alternative opinions or alternative facts. For me, this is not a case of opinions (alternative or otherwise), nor is it essentially a case of facts (although there are facts to be considered). I do not believe my stated positions to be opinions. Given that
I am writing this text for publication in the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects’ seasonal publication, Architect Victoria – it is written in the context of a publication for the profession and for the discipline of architecture. As a member of the Institute, I support the concept that there is a discipline of architecture and there is professional expertise. I hope that I evince some of that disciplinary and professional expertise in my practice, in my teaching and academic roles, and in my public position. In the context of a factional, even divisive, debate on the public role of architecture, the nature of public space, and the consultative obligations of government with the public, I believe it is important not to be afraid to state that while all citizens have an equal say in the governance of the city, not all voices have the same relevance on the architectural and urban design of a city. All who live in or visit a city are impacted by its manifestations, and as such have a right (if not obligation) to offer an opinion and verdict on that experience. This is part of the profoundly public responsibility of architecture. Nonetheless, as a practitioner of architecture, my role (and that of others in the profession of architecture) exceeds that of merely being affected by and responding to the built fabric of the city. I (we) also bear an obligation to understand and posit in advance – before something exists – as to the possible success and appropriateness of an architectural scheme, its potential for a positive transformation of the existing, or its negative consequences. This is the role of design as a projective, futurist action – proposing the ‘not yet’. This is what we (LAB Architecture Studio + Bates Smart) did in 1997 with our scheme for Federation Square (as did the other 176 entrants). As with all architectural designs and ideas, it is not possible to guarantee the outcome; the positive or negative effect of an architectural proposition. But it is possible to have disciplinary knowledge and professional →
Above Federation Square competition board by LAB Architecture. Courtesy State Library of Victoria
expertise. Upon being awarded the competition for Federation Square in July 1997, we experienced for at least five years, the second-guessing, the accusation of not being local and therefore ill-informed about Melbourne and statements of certainty that ‘It will never work’; that it was a disaster in the making. Fifteen years on, and once again, I am being told that my support for the new Apple flagship store at Federation Square will produce a disaster; it will ruin the public quality of the plaza; it will forever change – in a negative way – the success of the most successful public space in Australia. At times like this I luxuriate in the cruel irony of the current circumstance: 1. We were not good enough or local enough to design a successful public space for Melbourne. 2. The design was not what was expected and therefore would never work. 3. Now, the design works so well, it must never be changed. 4. Now, just because you designed Federation Square, just because
you designed the Yarra Building, just because you understand and generated the DNA of Federation Square – we still don’t trust your opinion (much less your expertise) on its future transformation(s). I now have other architectural professionals telling me how I should understand Federation Square. I have other architects and non-architects certain in their own minds how the plaza should work and why it works and telling me (without any irony in their voices) that I don’t understand public space. That the public knows better than one of its authors. Finally, I will end with reference to one last irony of ironies. At the Open House Melbourne Apple in Federation Square Public Debate, Tania Davidge, in speaking against the proposal for Apple, invoked at length the Federation Square Civic and Cultural Charter and attempted to use it as a hammer to beat back the proposed new Apple flagship store. She framed her opposition as ‘the public against those who make their decisions without consultation’. She implored that the charter is so
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brilliant and so exemplary in its stated civic and cultural responsibilities; how could anyone allow a project like the Apple store at Federation Square? The CEO of Federation Square Pty Ltd, Jonathan Tribe, identified other sections of the charter (not highlighted by Tania) that clearly nominate a company like Apple to be a worthwhile and appropriate tenant. My point is not that Jonathan is right and Tania wrong (or vice versa). Rather, I simply want to point out that the Civic and Cultural Charter that Tania so rightly holds in high regard for its advocacy and protection of the best possible public benefits of Federation Square, was not written by the public, and was not developed through broad consultation. It was produced by experts. By professionals. Professor Donald Bates is a registered architect in Australia and the UK. He is the Director of LAB Architecture Studio, the architects of Federation Square, and Chair of Architectural Design at the University of Melbourne.
A bite out of democracy Words by Sophie Cleland
Public squares fuel democracy. The current debate regarding the proposed Apple store has highlighted Federation Square’s role as Melbourne’s public square, and the danger of commercial interests eclipsing or influencing public and civic ones. This is not about a political position, but about the inherent relationship between Federation Square and Melbourne, and about public squares and democracy. The role of town squares Public squares, and plazas have a long history in planned towns and cities. They have evolved both in design and use over time but have always served as places of gathering. The origins of squares are political as much as architectural: they are deeply intertwined with our governance. They have always been places where people and authorities meet, places for dialogue between citizens and government. Executions, floggings and ridicule are as much a part of town square history as demonstrations and sporting prowess. ‘The use of public space in cities around the world is an effective way for both governments
and citizens to express themselves. These uses include: exercising authority, as well as challenging it; celebrating and mourning; and casual recreational activity.’1 This simple statement encompasses the deliberate value placed on participating in a democratic society. It reflects modern Australia both culturally and politically in the belief that democratic governance represents the views of the people. Consequently, there is significant weight in the symbolism of public squares. Planning town squares The Project for Public Spaces identifies ten principles for public squares: ‘The ten principles are based on the hundreds of squares—the good and the bad. What stands out most is that design is only a small fraction of what goes into making a great square. To really succeed, a square must take into account a host of factors that extend beyond its physical dimensions.’2 Several of these principles identify with Federation Square’s role as Melbourne’s public square. The significance of Federation Square’s edges defines it as a place and creates
a zone that can hold and contain activities in scale and proportion. The layout of a square’s surrounding elements determines how they frame views, protect people from seasonal weather and manage topography. In order to protect the potential of a square as a public-gathering place, designers consider these things as part of the primary framework and take an integrated approach to the design. The contemporary and commercial aspects of public squares are an important supporting function but shouldn’t shape a square’s identity: indeed, public squares must not appear to be sponsored by a commercial entity because branding erodes the impression of neutrality and public democracy. Square management must ensure commercial tenants do not affect the square’s role as a democratic forum, and that people have an open or neutral view to the event at hand (whether it be a rally, boxing match or an impromptu gathering). Melbourne’s historical context ‘When Governor Richard Bourke was overseeing the planning of Melbourne in the 1830s, he insisted the Surveyor General not include a city square. Bourke said he wanted to prevent the spirit of democracy from arising’.3 Melbourne was initially an illegal settlement, and the then NSW Governor Bourke wanted to take control and capitalise on the location that the pastoralists arriving from Van Diemen’s Land had established. It’s possible that the decision to omit public squares occurred during discussions on the layout and widths of the streets but was not recorded.4 The absence of a public square is unusual given that other city planning at the time (such as Light’s grid of 1837 for Adelaide) included major public spaces, and it wasn’t until Hoddle was replaced as Surveyor General that proposals for squares appeared in the planning of Melbourne’s suburbs.5 →
Above Poppy tribute, Federation Square Photo by Michael Smith
Melbourne’s first city square was finally completed in 1980 on land purchased between the town hall and St Paul’s Cathedral. This space was conceived in the political climate of the current day, and with protests against the Vietnam War and the implications of creating a place where people could gather, it was decided to be designed not to facilitate large public congregation. The square was deemed unsuccessful and redeveloped in the early 1990s.6 The creation of Federation Square through an open design competition followed decades of advocacy for a true public square. This new space would trump City Square. Federation Square’s opening in 2001 (to coincide with the centenary of national federation) delivered the iconic public place Melbourne never had: a symbolic centre of the city. This is echoed in Federation Square’s vision statement: ‘To be recognised internationally as a contemporary world site and Melbourne’s inspirational public space. To manage
and develop Federation Square to actively support and reflect Melbourne’s pre-eminent civic and cultural strengths.’7 The square’s design placed great emphasis on several aspects of human interaction; ‘the square was to be enveloped by the built spaces curling around the square, creating a sense of intimacy and security from the enclosure.’8 The consistent and singular identity of the architecture defines the square and its layout facilitates a gathering crowd, or incidental passage through. To deviate from this for a building that has an iconic commercial, rather than civic, use and a contrasting architectural identity fundamentally negates the square’s democratic role. Implications for Federation Square ‘Shortly after it opened, it was the locus for the 2003 protest marches against the war in Iraq and the image of people gathered in the square
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was also broadcast via the large screen to other major cities around the world in a coordinated global protest movement. Then in 2008, for the “National Apology to the Stolen Generations”, over 10,000 people gathered to witness the live screening of the speeches, contributing comments to the screen via text messaging.’9 Federation Square is integrated into the existing fabric, perhaps the one thing Melbourne had not yet got right. Along with Flinders Street Station, trams and the Arts Centre spire, Federation Square has become part of Melbourne’s iconic civic imagery. It currently features as part of an international tourism campaign and is the identified destination on signage at the city limits. The success of the square now demands that we recognise its civic value and acknowledge its significance to our social and cultural identity. This place, once denied to Melburnians, now needs to be
considered for more than just open space, but for how it defines and enshrines our rights to participate in the democracy of our city. There was no rigorous public process or dialogue to consider the requirement for changes such as the Apple store in Federation Square. This lack of transparency highlights the need to protect the very thing this square represents. As Melbourne approaches nearly 4.5 million people, we must have our say in the way our city operates now and into the future. In a world where more and more people are connecting through devices, many talk of feeling socially isolated. Public places like Federation Square will only grow in value as places to stand with other citizens and enjoy, cry, or reflect on events both locally and globally without fear or favour. Sophie Cleland is a Principal at ARM Architecture. She is currently the director in charge of the Adelaide Festival Plaza in South Australia and
projects at the National Museum of Australia. She actively engages with communities through architecture on public projects, working at many scales from institutional, publicrealm urban and regional projects to mixed-use and multi-residential developments.
Notes 1 Aaron Magro ‘Australians don’t loiter in public space – the legacy of colonial control by design’, The Conversation (May 2017) <http://theconversation.com/australians-dontloiter-in-public-space-the-legacy-of-colonial-control-bydesign-76979> 2 ‘10 Principles for Successful Squares’, Project for Public Spaces (2005) <https://www.pps.org/article/ squaresprinciples> 3 Sunday Extra, radio program, ABC Radio National, 28 May 2017 4 Aaron Magro, personal communication, 28 March 2018. 5 Miles Lewis, Melbourne: the city’s history and development, (City of Melbourne, 1995), p.47 6 Dimity Reed, ‘Melbourne’s City Square’ Architecture Australia (2011), <https://architectureau.com/articles/ city-square/> 7 <http://fedsquare.com/about> 8 <https://www.australiandesignreview.com/architecture/ the-evolution-of-federation-square/> 9 Ibid.
Office of the Victorian Government Architect —
Civic purpose and transformation Words by Jill Garner
Federation Square’s vast and open civic topography with its complex geometry and contemplative poetic text inscriptions can be hard to find in a place that seems in permanent event-mode.
Federation Square’s vast and open civic topography with its complex geometry and contemplative poetic text inscriptions can be hard to find in a place that seems in permanent event-mode. Left AFL Grand Final parade 2013 Photo courtesy of TLA Wordwide Photo by Ben Swinnerton Below Nearamnew by Paul Carter in collaboration with LAB Architecture Studio. Photo by David Simmonds
Even as the architecturally unfamiliar Federation Square became embedded in the hearts and minds of our community, the qualities of the public space that captured our imagination – its unique and open civic topography – have long been challenged. Our community has recently been reminded of the governance arrangements in place for Federation Square and it is surprising for many to learn that the square struggles to balance its civic, cultural and commercial commitments. The Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) has observed this tension play out constantly in Federation Square’s public space. It is in this context that the office has provided advice on numerous proposals planned for the space – advice that needs to be objective and balanced, while staying true to the original civic and design intent of Federation Square. Countless short and longterm interventions, installations or events in the square – intended to activate the space – often conflict with the spontaneous activities that occur when people simply meet and gather, making a great place in a busy city. The best public spaces in the world offer breathing space and a happy combination of foot traffic,
meeting place and marketplace. The concept of a civic place that can accommodate a purposeful public gathering at a moment’s notice (recalling the city nucleus of the agora or forum) competes with a model of place that is often in ‘event’ mode. Almost twenty years on, Federation Square is impacted by changes that have shifted the original patterns of use of the site. In the surrounding area, Flinders Lane is blossoming as a preferred food and beverage haunt. Princes Walk is enhanced and connected to Melbourne’s lively sports and entertainment precinct through the landscape experience of Birrarung Marr and Tanderrum Bridge. Flinders Street Station is decluttering its east facade, hinting at future possibilities for pedestrian connections across Swanston Street. Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the National Gallery of Victoria are keen to overhaul their presence on Flinders Street. A new metro station entry will replace the formerly controversial western shard and several vehicle assaults have impacted our approach to the edges of public places. Federation Square would benefit from a considered and coordinated approach to numerous
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pressures and competing interests to support a contemporary refresh that reveals while overlaying and improves the existing condition. Sensitive coordination of a layer of change to the square and its extended precinct is an important moment for future Melbourne. The proposition to replace the Yarra Building provides an opportunity to identify and remedy several unfavourable circumstances and learn from its lack of success in achieving its original commercial intent. Urban design critique highlights the lack of direct, intuitive and universal access to the river walk. There is also the widely held perception that the Yarra Building is an unfortunate barrier between the square and river and blocks a view of the unique and successful Deakin Edge from Princes Bridge. These are specific examples of issues that can be addressed with place-specific principles and aspirations for change that the OVGA has embedded in discussions about the site. This allows the architects for a new building to tackle the design task in an informed way. The OVGA advocates for an appreciation of the conventions of the design process – the need for design
Nearamnew by Paul Carter in collaboration with LAB Architects. Photo by David Simmonds
development, review and refinement – to arrive at an appropriate, sitespecific design response. Time, trust and intelligent review allows a design team to do what they are skilled to do - design. Landing on an appropriate final design for the Apple project is an iterative process that is currently in train. A carefully integrated design that responds to the particular place that is Federation Square is not an off-theshelf product. It will be an outcome of interrogation, consideration and convincing resolution of principles – acknowledging design cues embedded in the existing place. The OVGA provides input (often confidential, usually invisible) to numerous projects that impact the community. Capable architecture practices also regularly test design concepts within the same constraints of confidentiality. We take this responsibility very seriously, seeing it as an important opportunity, at the inception of any project, to inspire quality and context-appropriate design outcomes. We are committed to promoting design aspiration, vision, considered intelligent change and processes that allow this to happen. Within the confines of necessary confidentiality, the OVGA has worked to embed key components for success in the process being navigated for the Apple project. The architects have strong capability and
skill. The client is committed to quality and long-term legacy. The process of design review includes input from experts and representatives from Federation Square, LAB Architects, City of Melbourne and the OVGA. Community response has added its voice, reminding both government and Federation Square of the need to ensure a considered design process for this highly valued public place. Engaging the community in sensitive projects can be difficult and there is no single, perfect strategy. In our recent experience with other significant public projects across government, collaborative or publicdeliberation processes that seek to embed local knowledge and assist decision-making have been incredibly valuable and constructive. Although inevitable, change is not inevitably bad. Architects who effect change in public places carry great responsibility to ensure their response is overlaid by deep considerations about the quality and long-term impact of the places they build and concern about the community for whom they build. A model where all parties listen and learn, building both trust and understanding, will always be the ultimate goal. Jill Garner is the Victorian Govenment Architect
Computer says NO! Federation Square and Apple Words by Philip Goad
The decision to remove one of the series of buildings from Federation Square and replace it with another might be valid if it did not come with massive contradictions and the smell of an unseemly deal. It’s true that most great public spaces of the world are not unitary, perfect creations but complex, multi-layered things that have had ad-hoc accretions and additions and which, over time, have grown to become much loved and familiar places of urban propinquity. Think Piazza S. Pietro in Rome (never finished and altered constantly over the centuries), Place Georges Pompidou in Paris or Trafalgar Square in London. Change and time have been intrinsic to their stamping upon the public memory as significant urban places. At the same time, let’s not forget that Federation Square simply isn’t Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London or Shinjuku in Japan, where the mad clash of signage and the riotous ephemera of commerce are intrinsic, indeed vital to those spaces’ visual excitement. Federation Square, by contrast, is one of Australia’s urban spaces that, from the outset was
commemorative. It was to be, and has become, a public space (framed by buildings) that memorialises the coming together of the states to form a federated Australian nation in 1901. Because of that intent, there has been and continues to be a completely understandable sense of public ownership and interest in the square’s design and its ongoing development. Witness the furore in 2000 over the height of the ‘shards’ when it was believed that the Swanston and Flinders streets corner buildings of Federation Square would mask a much-loved view of St Paul’s Cathedral. Adjustments were made on the basis of public opinion and a government-commissioned report. Whether right or wrong, there was debate. A shard was to be shorn but ended up shrunk. Now in 2018, the proposal to demolish one of the Federation Square buildings close to the Yarra River and replace it with a commercial building to the design of an international architect has outraged many – and in my opinion, rightly so. Where was the opportunity to make public comment? Why, as a senior colleague in the profession observed,
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hasn’t Lord Foster put his case to the people of Victoria arguing for the validity of his design? Why has there been a carefully constructed media campaign that announced the decision as a fait-accompli? In short, the first problem is one of process. It’s been a dud. The second problem is the tinkering of the design of the space of Federation Square as it currently exists. Arguments for the removal of the implicated building have been based on the fact that it was an unforeseen addition to the original brief anyway and its removal and its replacement with a more transparent building will open up views to the Yarra. I’m inclined to disagree. What the current building does on the site is actually help to contain the physical space of Federation Square: it acts as a southern arm to create a feeling of enclosure that is key to the creation of any human-scaled urban space and its necessary opaqueness means that views are directed to the southwest and that surprising, narrow, lanewayscaled views (which occur across the whole series of Federation Square buildings) are gained to the Yarra – and that’s OK, even fortuitously clever. So, removing said building actually will
diminish the sense of enclosure that has developed. The third problem is the proposed design even if it is only a placeholder. Another dud, methinks. Even if one had to admit a major global brand as tenant onto this site (which I don’t agree with), then why can’t Apple be forced to work within the shell of the existing building? Even if one doesn’t warm to the tessellated facade of Federation Square, a seriously clever architect would rise to the challenge. This is what Carlo Scarpa had to do with his Olivetti showroom (1957-8) tucked into the corner of Piazza San Marco in Venice. That diminutive little showroom, which paid deference to its historic external skin, was an iconic intervention from its inception, as were other Olivetti showrooms across the globe, even in Sydney where local designer Gordon Andrews produced one of postwar Australia’s most inventive commercial interiors for the Italian typewriting giant in 1956. But no, that’s not what Melbourne is getting – far from it. From what we’ve seen, the proposed design is a glass pavilion of little distinction. The irony is that Olivetti as
a business venture didn’t last in Venice so neither may Apple in Melbourne, so why give the cultural game away so easily? If finance is the driver then really make it work so that at the very least there might be something to be architecturally proud of, even when Apple has gone. But that’s the issue, Apple doesn’t need to be there at all. Much better to let it do its public place making in a completely different setting in Melbourne where it can make its own Times Square and leave our commemorative and celebratory spaces alone. Process, space and design have not been served well here. Melbourne must have the opportunity to say no. Philip Goad is Chair of Architecture, codirector of the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage, and Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at The University of Melbourne. An authority on Australian architecture, he is the co-author of An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australian Houses 1950–1965 (UWA Press, 2017). Left Yarra Building photo by Michael Smith Above Olivetti showroom, Venice Photo by Thomas Nemeskeri /flickr_by CC_2
Above Federation Square Photo by John Gollings
Emblem of Melbourne Words by Thisuni Welihinda
While millennials can be a baffling, yet wonderfully resourceful bunch, it's hard to deny that our generation revolves around technology. We tote the latest releases of electronics, we have all the apps and many of us live our lives on the internet or through social media. So, I can understand why it could be easy for our predecessors to assume that we maybe in overwhelmingly in favour of the new Apple flagship store in Federation Square. After all, I am a part of Apple’s number one demographic; and we millennials do love our gadgets almost as much as we love avocados. While I cannot speak for my entire cohort, I will not deny that my phone is an extension of my arm, but I also believe that there is a place for everything. For Apple, that place is not Federation Square.
There has been a lot of debate about the issue and while the established familiar voices have taken up arms with the pen, my peers have jumped on to blogs, tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook to make their voices heard. Federation Square is a landmark that is well and truly part of Melbourne; a quirky nod to the personality of the city. It may not be as grand, picturesque or iconic as the Sydney Opera House, but it is associated with Melbourne in the same way that great coffee is. I should know, I came to Melbourne in 2010 to study architecture and to me Federation Square symbolises the community heart of Melbourne’s CBD. From my perspective, there has never been a Melbourne without Federation Square, and I am thankful for that. I remember going on a city tour when I first got here,
and it began at Federation square. My very first architecture studio incorporated the Federation Square Atrium. Across my five-year university education, Federation Square became a reoccurring guest in lectures, presentations, field trips and more. Federation Square is a true and easy context in which ideas can be explored and communal architecture can be understood. The space is a premier stop during public events like White Night and Moomba festival, because it is a home for congregation – whether it is peaceful protest or a food fair. Recently, Federation Square was even the venue for the World’s Greatest Shave. The entire precinct gives off an artsy, creative and quintessentially Melburnian vibe. It is safe to say I cannot imagine Federation Square as anything other than what it is, a civic space, a hub, a place where people, for whatever rhyme or reason, come together. A flagship Apple store in the city would however have its merits. Apple is a leader in technology and even a begrudging android user, can admit that an Apple store as a commercial tenant in the city would bring in a never-ending line of frenzied customers. With every new release, the parade of technology enthusiasts would be a frequent occurrence. Nevertheless, this does not justify Apple being permitted occupancy at Federation Square; particularly if it requires the demolition of the Yarra Building to do it. Its current resident, the Koorie Heritage Trust, is representative of what is needed in Federation Square to showcase the culture of Melbourne to tourists. It is a unique experience unlike the multitude of glass Apple stores worldwide. In fact, given Apple already have a My Mac location directly opposite Federation Square on Flinders Street, the question remains why not a more appropriate location in the city? Surely an Apple store is not the only way for Federation Square to increase revenue. An Apple store embedded into a major civic and community
precinct purely for monetary gain sets a dangerous trajectory. Some cities internationally have pursued this consumer driven path to seek prosperity, only to damage what made them special. Before I moved to Australia, I used to live in one such city; Dubai. Although exciting and glamorous in its own way, Dubai lacks what Melbourne has an abundance of – soul. Melbourne is creative, colourful and a little quirky. We like our hidden laneway cafes, the graffiti murals that adorn brick walls and the buskers that make the streets come to life. Federation Square, in a similar fashion, adds to that because it is a space for the people. To make way for an Apple destination, is an outdoor shopping mall waiting to happen, and that is all too familiar to me. Yes, technology is a wonderful tool and yes, we need money to get by, but not everything has a price. Federation Square is not perfect; there is always room for improvement. However, it is a testament to experimentation in successful public space, but also a piece of Melbourne’s uniqueness. We need to make sure that what we add and take away are in the best interest of what makes Melbourne a unique place to live. Thisuni Welihinda is a graduate of architecture from The University of Melbourne. She was the SONA representative for Melbourne University in 2016 and organised the highly successful Superstudio event in that year. Currently she works at K2LD Architects and Interiors, where her experience has been mainly focused on education and community projects.
New projects Words by Laura Held
Project 1 NH Architecture
Project 2 Woods Bagot
Melbourne Airport T2 Luxury Retail
Plenary Office Fit-out
NH Architecture was engaged by Melbourne Airport to provide a concept design for the upgrade of the existing air-side retail in Terminal 2. The project creates new and renovated retail spaces within the existing building shell to achieve appropriate market segmentation between luxury, convenience retail, and food and beverage brands. During initial consultation with Melbourne Airport, the leadership team were clear in their intention for a uniquely Melbourne concept that would also resonate around the world as a premier visitor experience. The architect’s design response draws from the cultural and physical characteristics of the city and reflects Melbourne’s distinctive urban forms. The luxury retail space pays homage to Melbourne’s grand arcades with their magnificent ceilings and decorative floors. A selection of strategically located cafes and bars is condensed by comparison referencing the vibrancy of the city’s laneways.
When Plenary sought an office space in Melbourne’s Rialto Towers to provide a welcoming hospitality client experience, the design team at Woods Bagot eagerly explored a new genre of workplace design. Borrowing from landscape and urban design sensibilities, the spaces flow one to another, slowly revealing views of the city and Plenary’s Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre project. Combining materials, fine artisanship and unique residential furniture, the project is a celebration of craftsmanship and refinement. The relaxed and open workplace offers a wide range of work settings, activated social hub and unlimited access to views and natural light.
Photographer: Shannon McGrath
Photographer: Shannon McGrath
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Project 3 Sibling Nation
Project 4 Pham Tuan Viet Architects
The Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Mount Waverley Restaurant
This refurbishment project called for an interactive space to showcase the faculty’s research achievements. Working closely with communication and design students to integrate touch screens, 3D-printed models, holograms and an interactive timeline, the new design space allows for content to be uploaded as research findings become available. The colour and texture of the design – brightly coloured microscopic photography, crystallography, and chemical reactions – reflects the working methodology and artefacts of the researchers. The concept was to transport the user from an everyday space, through a range of different scales, into a microscopic world.
An adaptive reuse of materials was used to transform an old grocery shop into a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant. The project explored Vietnamese cultural expressions blending old and new material palettes with an experimental use of wood. Old render from brick walls was removed to compliment the new material palette, and timber bench seats installed along the walls were made of recycled timber beams. A key architectural element to connect or separate spaces is the series of plywood stripes, which create an organic skin for the main seating area, and subtly references the form of traditional Vietnamese noodles.
Photographer: Christine Francis
Photographer: John Gollings
Alex Lake Therefore Studio Words by Elizabeth Campbell
I am sitting at a multi-coloured marble table in a light-filled room with glass walls and shelves lined with material samples. Each shelf is categorised by property: natural stone, timber, brick. I am meeting Alex Lake, founder of Therefore Studio. Alex knew he wanted to be an architect from a young age, completing his Bachelor and Masters degrees at the University of Melbourne and opening Therefore at age 26. Alex started at Technē Architecture + Interior Design as an undergraduate, ‘I was always engaged with practice, it was a stronger focus for me than a lot of the work I did at University.’ As a result, by the time he finished his Masters degree, he had already accumulated the same amount of hours as an experienced graduate. His focus at Technē, was hospitality spaces. Some of the clients he worked with at Technē became clients through his personal relationships in the industry. Bringing in this new business, he was given a large amount of responsibility for the projects, which pushed him to become more independent with the right support around him as he needed. ‘This was on the cusp of when good cafes in Melbourne went from five to fifty.’
These relationships are to thank for the beginning of Therefore Studio; ‘the hospitality industry has been very kind to us.’ The first project completed under the Therefore label was Touchwood, which was the third of five projects now completed with one repeat client. Since opening Therefore, work has come through the door in different sectors. Alex notes that every project that has been a change from creating hospitality spaces has come organically, rather than him proactively seeking to diversify this early. In the first few weeks of opening Therefore, he was approached to design a house alteration. ‘It was a challenge’, he laughs, ‘I had never documented a house before, it was an interesting experience and not something I would recommend. However, I think we are better for it now. We have a better understanding of how to adapt and figure out what we do not know quickly and resolve any issues as they arise.’ Moving forward we are interested to take on more residential projects, as well as, small-scale public work, institutional work, and apply our research and experience from joinery
and furniture into some product design. Rather than being influenced directly by aesthetics, Alex states their way of practice has been embolden by strong architects with original process. He mentions Jeremy McLeod (his innate tenacity) and Sean Godsell (fighting for the importance in the role of the architect). ‘We have a very reference-based process; but there is no specific aesthetic that we prescribe to. We try to stay open-minded, well read and broad reaching. It is good to have consistencies, but by following a process instead of a prescribed palette, we hope to achieve original outcomes.’ When asked about model making, Alex argues that it is important in the right context; however, when working on tight terrace-house sites and hospitality spaces, the time making 1:100 models is better spent working through details or material choices, due to never experiencing the project as a whole from the exterior. The studio works very rigorously through a mixture of digital platforms, hand sketches and tactile material combinations. And as for the Apple store in Federation Square, Alex has a similar opinion to many architects and the public – the process, or lack thereof, was not handled as it should have been. He agrees, it is an inappropriate intervention into a public space. However, the idea that an Apple store is necessary for revenue perhaps illustrates that the project was never considered properly at the start. In a realistic sense, he understands the commercial aspects but suggests it may have been better to relegate a part of the site and delegate it to commercial use from the beginning rather than come back and retrofit things.
Left Vacation Photo by Sean Fennessy Overleaf Elwood House Photo by Tom Blachford
Selling out our values Words by Dimity Reed
The word around town is that the disastrous Apple decision is the obsession of the clearly delusional Minister for Tourism. He apparently believes that Apple users worldwide will be leaping on planes to rush to the proposed Apple outlet in Federation Square. It should be remembered by Minister Eran that his birthplace, marvellous Turkey, had a booming tourism market until it was killed by bad government. If Apple were ever to sit in Federation Square, how could Spring Street refuse Amazon or Samsung or any other jumped-up billionaire factory a similar gift? Would those who argue for this be prepared to sacrifice Federation Square’s institutions one by one so that our grandchildren will never know that this was once a city, a culture, that valued film, painting, our indigenous history, sculpture and music. And a shared public life? I see the matter of the proposed design of the Apple store, the matter of architecture, as actually less important here than it usually is because the sacredness, the meaning, of Federation Square is what has to be valued and protected. That is the
prime issue. That is why a corporation such as Apple is so alien to every principle underpinning a national signifier. That said, it is worth noting that our beleaguered government architect office, along with Professor Donald Bates, and probably by now someone from Town Hall, are working hard with Foster + Partners to turn their laughable design into something that could be considered acceptable. History is against them. A bad design can never become a good design, no matter the talent, determination and goodwill that are lavished upon it. A bad design on the drawing board will always remain a bad design. Melbourne is a city which understands the making of public buildings and the role of public space and Silicon Valley is not a model that works here. Foster + Partners should look to Asia to expand their practice and give us a miss. We have our own →
small coterie of commercial practices, which at least know how to fit a new building into an existing context. When Apple disappears and the dust settles, some good thought should go into issues that could better engage Federation Square with its neighbours – Flinders Street, the car park, and the Yarra River. Opening up the Australian Centre for the Moving Image more generously to Flinders Street would be a good start. Improving access between the car park and various sectors of the square could follow this, and maybe improved connections to the river. The issue of the management of Federation Square also deserves better ministerial thinking. It’s fine having the standard good governance mix but there is no-one with a depth of understanding of cultural issues or city making. The board is just too dammed ordinary. Maybe there should be a couple of permanent positions on the board for artistic director of the Melbourne Festival, or the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra or the National Gallery of Victoria? The state government is the guardian of all the assets of the people of Victoria. We may not have elected them with this responsibility in mind but the decision of the current occupiers of the government benches in Spring Street to allow the Apple corporation into Federation Square must surely become a factor in future elections. Among these assets in Melbourne are the library, museums, recital centre, the gardens, galleries, Federation Square, the law courts, Government House, Treasury, and Parliament House. These buildings and places are the cultural markers of our civilisation; they document and sustain our histories. Within them, our laws are made, our imaginations enhanced and our futures determined. What happens in them is important, but the buildings as objects and where they are located are both central to an understanding of our city and our society. Parliament House, where the laws are made, was positioned at the top of Bourke Street
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to look to the Supreme Court where the laws are tested. Treasury was positioned at the top of Collins Street, which was seen as being the commercial heart of the future city. The Town Hall, from where the city is governed, was positioned centrally on the north–south, east– west axes of Melbourne as it was seen as the heart of the city. There are meanings attached to all these places. For 170 years, each generation has contributed to the making of this city. And as our generation’s contribution, Federation Square was built to commemorate the making of this nation. Located at the entrance to the city, opposite Flinders Street Station and beside a long neglected but now well used river, it is a highly successful gathering place, a public square, within a collection of important public institutions. These buildings and places are the stories, the songlines of our lives that each generation values, nurtures and hands on. The contents of these buildings stretch our knowledge, test and expand our understanding of how we can live and they open our imagination. They explain our history and give us the confidence to make our future. It’s worth noting that Apple couldn’t find a site in New York so its’ Manhattan store is underground. You enter it via a glass lift or down a glamorous but vaguely treacherous glass staircase. Once underground you see a couple of hundred hapless souls sitting at tables looking at iPads. And you quietly wonder where civilisation is headed. Trigger warnings are all the go at the moment so here’s one for a potentially difficult issue: Apple holds vastly more private information on every one of its’ global billions of customers than Facebook. And Facebook is in deep trouble around privacy issues. Every note, phone call, film or show watched by us over the past decade is held somewhere in an Apple cloud with our names on them. What is that information worth to a buyer? The implications of Federation Square being home to Apple’s
Above Helix Tree Photo by John Gollings
mega-store is surely worth some consideration. If our government and its listless Opposition had any guts they could find this corporation a site in Swanston Street adjacent to Young and Jackson or it could find a spot underground somewhere. Or they could locate in Flinders Street Station’s Ballroom and spend some loot turning it into a magical Apple fairyland with glass lifts swirling skywards. If they want to be in Melbourne, they’ll find somewhere to go. There are opportunities all over. Anywhere, except Federation Square. Government ministers and Federation Square directors should not be charmed by cowboys flying in with golden handshakes. As women
across the globe are finding, it’s actually now possible to say no. Dimity Reed AM LFAIA graduated in architecture from The University of Melbourne and is Professor of Urban Design at RMIT Universty. She previously held the role of President of the Victorian Chapter and Advisor on Women’s Affairs to Premier John Cain. She is currently studying Renaissance Literature at the University of Melbourne and working on solutions to homelessness.
Apple's Heritage: Federation Square and Boston Words by Jim Gard’ner
In the context of the current debate surrounding the merits of the proposed flagship Apple store in Federation Square, it is important to remember that the issues of integrating a new Apple store within a highly valued urban context are neither new, nor unique to Melbourne. More than a decade ago Apple blog macrumors.com commented in the same post on the proposed construction of flagship Apple stores in Boston, Massachusetts and at 625 Chapel Street, South Yarra. While the latter never eventuated, the Boston store did. An analysis of its development provides for some interesting parallels with the Federation Square proposal. Lessons from Boston’s Apple store The Boston Apple store is located at 815 Boylston Street in Back Bay, a highly intact and much-admired historic neighbourhood. Back Bay was originally a tidal estuary that was filled from the mid-nineteenth century, creating more than 180 hectares of developable land by the 1880s. Planned as a fashionable residential district, Back Bay is formed of grand
boulevards (based on Haussmann’s remaking of Paris) through which the changing tastes and stylistic evolution of American architecture – from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries – can be traced. The Back Bay Architectural District was established by the City of Boston in 1966 and the neighbourhood was included on the United States’ National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The Back Bay Apple store is located in the heart of the commercial thoroughfare of Boylston Street and is sandwiched between late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial buildings four to five storeys high. The proposed design was challenged by some preservationists (to use the American term) and vigorously debated by the City of Boston’s Back Bay Architectural District Commission (BBADC). In arguing for its construction Mark Maloney (then head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority) described it as a ‘bright, shiny jewel box within a traditional neighbourhood’.1 The development required the demolition of a two-storey 1906 building to which the BBADC
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ultimately agreed, but not before requiring Apple’s architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) to rework the initial design – which was even more minimal than the final design – to take greater account of the turn of the twentieth century buildings on either side. In the revised design, the BBADC lowered the built form to match the parapet height of the adjoining building to the west and added intermediate columns so the building would mirror the more vertical proportions of its neighbours while providing the appearance of solid mass behind the structural glass facade. Writing for the Boston Globe, Rachael Strutt expressed the opinion that the Apple store ‘represents the most exciting piece of retail architecture in the city since Frank Gehry renovated the Tower Records building on Newbury Street’ and claimed that the final design was a watered-down version of Apple’s aesthetic that had been compromised by the grid added at the request of the BBADC. While I personally think the nods to contextualism required by the BBADC have created a building that better integrates into its historic environment, I agree with Strutt ‘that good design in a historic area does not have to be traditional’ and ‘… at least sometimes, it’s good for contemporary architecture to stand out among its elder neighbors – not merely blend in with the crowd.’ 2 Federation Square as heritage Although it is not located in the same type of traditional historic context as Boston’s Apple store, the proposed Melbourne store also raises some interesting questions about the way in which a new structure can be integrated into an existing urban context. Here however, the first question from a heritage perspective isn’t ‘How should the response to the historic context be formulated?’ as much as ‘How can the heritage value of the setting best be understood given its relative youth?’. An article published by ABC News went straight to the heart of
Left: The Veiled Truth by Antonio Corradini. Getty Images Below: MTC Southbank Threatre by ARM Architecture. Photo by Peter Bennetts
Above Apple store opening day countdown, Boston photo by Chris Devers /flickr_by CC_2
the issue when it asked, ‘Federation Square is just 15 years old so is a few years away from being able to claim historical significance. So, what makes a building worth preserving?’ This article quotes architectural historian and heritage campaigner Rohan Storey, who in relation to Federation Square argued: ‘You might be able to say something is recognised as a significant piece of architecture… but to have historic, social and cultural significance a place needs to be old, but how old depends on the place.’3 It is this matter of ‘how old is old enough?’ that is challenging because in Victoria there is no statutory requirement or policy guidance on the
issue. Unsurprisingly, the opinions of heritage experts diverge as a result. In my view it is very difficult – if not impossible – to assess a place’s enduring cultural heritage significance after less than a generation (25-30 years), and such an assessment would need to be undertaken very cautiously. Of the criteria used by both Heritage Council and local governments throughout Victoria to assess heritage places, those most likely to apply to Federation Square would be criterion e. ‘aesthetic’, f. ‘creative or technical achievement’ and h. ‘social significance’. In assessing a place against criteria e. and f. architectural awards,
journal articles and critical acclaim can assist in establishing whether a building was well regarded in terms of its architectural design around the time of its construction, but it does not indicate whether or not those opinions still resonate today. In the assessment of places nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register – post-war buildings in particular – the Australian Institute of Architects Enduring Architecture Award provides a much more useful assessment →
of architectural significance taking a 25-plus-year viewpoint. Such guidance, however, is not yet available in the case of Federation Square. To satisfy criterion g. which encompasses ‘social significance’ a place must demonstrate a ‘strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons’.4 This criterion primarily differs from ‘historical significance’ in that the place must have value to a current community or cultural group. While Federation Square is highly valued by many Melburnians this is not a clearly defined group, nor could the connection be considered to be enduring after only 15 years. As a result, our capacity to assess the values of places such as Federation Square is necessarily limited. Internationally, this challenge has led to the development of various guidelines which seek to assist those undertaking this task. Heritage listing in England and the United States One of the established tests for heritage listing in England is the 30-year-rule which states that buildings of less than 30 years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat, and that buildings less than ten years old cannot be listed.5 In the United States the National Register Criteria for the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks apply the tests of ‘exceptional importance’ and ‘extraordinary national importance’ respectively for the listing of properties less than 50 years in age.6 In practical terms both the English and US standards recognise that a period of one or two generations is usually required to comprehensively understand the heritage values of a place within a broader social and historical context. These policies also recognise that there may be circumstances – such as a place being under threat – or places of such ‘outstanding quality’ or ‘exceptional importance’ that may warrant their
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listing before they reach 30 (England) or 50 (US) years in age. Federation Square and heritage in Victoria In the case of Federation Square, I believe there is a high likelihood – in response to the proposed Apple store development – that a nomination will be made to include the complex on the Victorian Heritage Register. While any such nomination will need to consider Heritage Council’s established criteria, the question that will need to be asked is ‘can the complex be adequately considered in a meaningful social and historical context after only 15 years? ’My answer would be that no matter how high the architectural quality of LAB Architecture Studio + Bates Smart’s design is, it is not possible to place Federation Square in a meaningful cultural context after only 15 years, whether that be for its architectural, historical or social value. On the question of architectural quality, however, almost without exception, Apple have sought to create shops that are every bit as restrained, elegant and minimalist as the phones, tablets and watches it sells. Like the archetypal fast-food restaurant or the service station, the Apple store has established itself as a typology that is applied, largely unchanged, world-wide. Having said that, the architectural language established by the San Francisco office of BCJ – that has become synonymous with Apple stores – does take account of its settings: from Fifth Avenue in New York to the restored 1830s market halls of Covent Garden in London. While BCJ has now been usurped by Foster + Partners as Apple’s architects of choice, the established form of the Apple store will continue, and Lord Foster’s practice has – like BCJ – shown itself to be adept at incorporating its hightech late-modernist architectural language in historic and existing urban contexts. The issue of how to manage recent heritage is becoming increasingly important as the places that are valued by the community
Above Boylston Street heritage streetscape, Boston photo by Alejandro Castro /flickr_by CC_2
extend to include those constructed in the Post World War II years and even those constructed in the twenty-first century such as Federation Square. The debate around Federation Square provides an opportunity to ask the question ‘how old is old enough?’ Seven hopefully, it can also lead to the development of sensible guidance which can assist us in finding an answer. Jim Gard’ner is an architect and director of Melbourne-based heritage consultancy GJM Heritage. He previously held the role of Executive Director for Heritage Victoria and was Conservation Manager at the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). Prior to this, Jim practiced architecture in New Zealand and the UK. He currently divides his time between Melbourne and Boston, Massachusetts.
Notes Arnold Kim, Apple Stores in Australia and Boston, MacRumors, 11 February 2007 - https://www.macrumors. com/2007/02/12/apple-stores-in-australia-and-boston/ 2 Rachel Strutt, Stained Glass, The Boston Globe, 11 February 2007 http://archive.boston.com/news/globe/ magazine/articles/2007/02/11/stained_glass/ 3 Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden, Federation Square, Flinders St Station: The famous Melbourne buildings once considered ‘ugly’, ABC News, 20 December 2017 - http:// www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-21/the-famous-melbournebuildings-once-considered-ugly/9277182 4 Heritage Council of Victoria criteria: a. Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history. b. Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history. c. Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history. d. Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects. e. Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics. f. Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period. g. Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions. h. Special association with the life or works of a person, or 1
group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history. 5 Department of Culture Media and Sport (UK), Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings, 2010. 6 U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, 2002. 7 Pilar Viladas, How Bohlin Cywinski Jackson created the Apple retail experience, Curbed, 12 September 2016 ttps:// www.curbed.com/2016/9/12/12854540/apple-storesarchitecture-foster-partners-bohlin-cywinski jackson
Planning and process Words by Ian Woodcock
One of the most universal concerns about the prospect of an Apple flagship store at Federation Square is the process that was undertaken leading to it being given planning approval. This begs the question: if the sequence of events had been more like a normal planning approval process, would Melbourne be facing the same outcome? Looking at this issue requires acknowledgement that an Apple store at Federation Square means many things to many people, just like the place itself. One of the key elements of the original brief for Federation
The Flagship Issue
Square, its much-vaunted DNA that has been cited of late, was a requirement to express multicultural themes. Such a requirement could have been at risk of hackneyed or worse forms of culturalism in its architecture. The architecture’s abstractions have enabled it to largely meet this requirement and the metanarrative of the place is that it allows many readings, including the many well-known negative ones. Thus, again the question: is the multiplicity of meanings that an Apple store might bestow upon Federation Square a worse outcome
Left Yarra Building facade geometry, Federation Square Photo by Michael Smith
than what could have been achieved had it been subject to a planning panel? A formal planning process would have involved a fulsome public exhibition of the proposal, public submissions, expert witnesses and cross-examinations. This may have provided about the same amount of media entertainment as actually occurred, or possibly less, given the indignation factor at not having been consulted would not have been present. The ultimate recommendation on how to proceed from a trio of government-appointed panelists, even if in tune with the dominant critical voices, would still require a response from the Minister. As we have seen many times, ministers have the power to do what they will with panel recommendations, such as accepting only some of them or rejecting all of them. The history of Federation Square has involved many processes inimical to the idea of design by participatory democracy. Federation Square was conceived by the Kennett state government and implemented as an international design competition in 1996. Notoriously, there was no public exhibition of the 177 entries from around the world, or even the five shortlisted entries, until after the winner had been announced, and then only for three weeks. Public input to inform the decision-making process of the competition was foreclosed. The wider public unfortunately was unable to engage with the potential raised across the range of submissions. Arguably, due to this lack of publicity, both the broader level of design literacy as well as trust in planning and design were impoverished. But this leads to the question: would the design outcome have suffered had a more consultative process been deployed at the competition stage? Could the competition process have been used to better inform the program? Certainly, the necessity to make the place more interesting and attractive and change the program several times became the virtue of an architecture of emergence. We might
observe that the casino on the other side of the river also emerged via a rapidly changing program, it was the spirit of the times no doubt rather than the DNA of this particular place. Consider for example an equally well-established and much loved gathering space such as London’s Trafalgar Square where significant projects have been built in the last generation. Not only were international design competitions held for the extension to the National Gallery (1982) and for the Grand Buildings site (1985) on the southeast corner, but in both cases, all entries were publicly exhibited with invitations to comment. These competitions were opportunities for the broader community to become exposed to the state of architectural thinking at the time. There was much controversy in both cases, along with unprecedented interventions from Prince Charles on the side of populism that was highly influential on what was eventually built. Many in the design community were appalled by these interventions, as opportunities for new architectural thinking were foreclosed under the weight of epithets such as ‘carbuncle on the face of an old friend’ characterising the Prince’s distaste for contemporary architecture. Here, the consultative process reinforced perceptions of a disconnect between an elite and everyone else, ironically led by the elite. This process of an apparent cleavage between an imagined elite and the community emerged again, following a change of state government, over the ‘Western Shard’ (the site of the present day entry to the Melbourne Visitor Centre). Shortly after the winning design for Federation Square was made public, the National Trust and some members of Melbourne City Council aligned to defend a ‘heritage vista’ of St Paul’s Cathedral that resulted in a review by Professor Evan Walker recommending removal of the Western Shard, supported by Premier Steve Bracks. This led to inquiries and reports of mismanagement by →
the Victorian Auditor General, and the resignation of Damien Bonnice, the project director over the poor handling of the project by the Government. A notable fallout from this furore was the loss of one of Melbourne’s major booksellers as an anchor tenant in the Yarra Building. The irony here is that the original design, with the full Western Shard, was approved in the usual way major projects are supposed to be, via a full panel-assessment process. Thus, we can discern in this compressed narrative of Federation Square’s coming into existence a highly complex and conflicted DNA. The brief changed dramatically several times, with some major programs deleted or significantly changed (eg the performing arts spaces, the winter gardens with rainforests and deserts) while others were added (a major gallery, offices for a broadcaster, many more food and drink outlets), and others moved around. The winning design broke some of the key requirements of its brief, and adjustments were made. While the competition was held in camera, formal planning approval processes exposed the emerging design to public and expert scrutiny, and notably, significant division of opinion. Federation Square’s form has been the source of most of the controversy, but its multiple processes of design and approval have accommodated a shifting program that has been largely uncontroversial. The design narrative at Federation Square has conflated the fluidity of the process of programming with an iterative design process and made a virtue out of necessity: all buildings must accommodate change over time, or be demolished and replaced. If it is the case that Federation Square isn’t performing as well as it could or should, a process of thorough review needs to occur, whose findings and recommendations are open to public and expert scrutiny via the kind of panel hearings that ought to accompany any major project. The parameters for the future of Federation Square should become a new brief
for the whole precinct. And perhaps that, then, could be subject to an international design competition to find the right designers and even, anchor tenants if that is what the process deems necessary. More than anything, the actual process of approval is less of an issue than the symbolism at stake when the state turns city building into projects and announcements devoid of a clear and publicly accepted plan. In this way, Apple at Federation Square is just the most obvious example of the corporatisation of the idea of publicness and the co-option of the state by the private sector. We have Apple branding our town square and Transurban planning our transport, and it seems our elected politicians will use whatever processes are available to give them their way. Dr Ian Woodcock is an architect, teacher and researcher. He is currently lecturer, Sustainability and Urban Planning at RMIT University, where he co-ordinates urban design for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, and convenes the Planning and Transport in City Regions Program. His research focuses on sense of place, transport, multiculturalism and design as a research method.
The Flagship Issue
Above Federation Square Photo by John Gollings
From Robert Grace Robert Grace Architecture, Paris state of grace www.stateofgrace.fr
I am still gobsmacked by the hysteria generated by the Apple proposal for central Melbourne. The chattering classes who have been hurling abuse at Apple from their iPhones, iPads and Macbooks (and the odd android device), are ‘shocked’. ‘Disgusted of Glen Waverley’ forgets that obfuscated sweetheart deals are de rigueur for Melbourne since its inception. Let’s face it, the Labdesigned Federation Square is weak, it is Daniel Libeskind-Lite, it is an ordinary outdoor food court with a huge telly. No wonder one of its
designers is happy to amputate part of his oeuvre. It pits the great unwashed streaming in from the suburbs under the clocks of Flinders Street station searching for free entertainment and a free space against the lesser washed promenading to consume at the square’s plethora of eateries and bars. A bit Baudelaire Paris spleen? More Melbourne appendix, and completely excisable! Apple’s proposal fits in (not physically of course) with Federation Square in a wonderfully half-hearted celebration in a crouching ovation to mediocre Melbourne.
From Hank Koning Founding Principal KoningEizenberg, Santa Monica,CA
From Grant Marani Partner, Robert AM Stern Architects, LLP New York, New York
Australia has indeed established an international reputation for achieving a lot given its small population, be it in film, literature, sport, food, art and architecture. There is indeed much to be proud of. Does Federation Square contribute to that reputation? It certainly has become a much loved and well used place in Melbourne and tourists do mention it as a lively gathering place by the Yarra. So yes, it does. The removal of an underappreciated gallery and the introduction of a flagship Apple store may well be necessary to the continued lively use of Federation Square – that is the part that folks love about it more so that the buildings. Ossification is not appropriate – places should be able to change and the mix of cultural and commercial uses contributes to a diverse experience. Similarly, in the future the Apple store may no longer be relevant and may change to something else. I have not studied the project design in any detail – perhaps that is an indication of how significant I think this building will be. I’m sure it will be a beautiful store with beautiful products displayed in a beautiful manner. Nothing wrong with that. But international significance? Not so much.
The architecture and urban fabric at the heart of Melbourne is in the midst of significant change, some appropriate and some glaringly inappropriate. But protecting the best of the past or moving with the times should not be a choice: the best cities manage to do both. Federation Square, a cohesive grouping of buildings around a memorable public space, though controversial when completed, is today an integral hub of Melbourne life and culture. Compellingly connecting the city’s edge with the Yarra River and the gardens beyond, it is where Melburnians unite for a cause or gather for festivities—a 24/7 public place supported by both artsrelated and commercial activities, local in nature but of national importance. The introduction of an Apple flagship store designed by the internationally respected Foster+Partners may be significant, perhaps even memorable. But representing as it does an international brand, its sleek design is at odds with Federation Square’s distinctive sense of place. Perhaps the store would be better located in neighboring City Square, a section of Swanston Street in need of rejuvenation. In moving with the times, let us not sweep away what is unique to Melbourne.
The Flagship Issue