James Milledge, Bates Smart; Charles Justin, SJB Architects and Roger Nelson, NH Architecture are the Principals from the three architectural firms involved in this vibrant interweaving of office space, retail amenity and public domain. Anna Johnson: I'd like to begin with a background to the project, andÂˇ how the project came about. James Milledge: The entire site was put together in the late 1980s by Lend Lease. At that stage there was a Harry Seidler single tower design proposed but, because the property industry collapsed at the end of the 198os, it was never built. Lend Lease subsequently sold the site to a consortium that consisted of David Marriner's Staged Developments and CBUS Property. When Staged Developments and CBUS eventually split, this property consisting of William Street, Little Bourke Street, Ramsay Lane and Bourke Street, with Goldsbrough Lane running through the centre- went to CBUS . In 2001 Bates Smart was brought on board to propose a design for an office building on half of the site bounded by William Street, Little Bourke Street, Goldsbrough Lane and Bourke Street. The other half was left untouched. We designed a building that's similar to the building you see now. It was then marketed - unsuccessfully - to a number of large tenants over a period of about 18 months. Various ideas for the site were considered and they finally
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decided any further proposal should engage the whole site, leaving our proposed William Street building as it was, but looking at the entire site holistically. A planning competition was run and SJB Architects, assisted by NH Architecture won the competition. Our client then came back to us and said, 'Well, how would you like to work with these guys?' We said, 'Of course, we'd love to!'. We then put together a consortia to produce a proposal that was pretty much in keeping with that winning design. AJ: OK, so what were the characteristics of the winning NHA and SJB design? Charles Justin: Our design was not so much an architectural response, but more a strategy of how to approach the site. The original brief included a mixed-used development of an office building, a residential tower and a hotel. As time went by, they decided against the hotel and so the project developed into a twin office tower with a three-level retail base. We proposed to combine the existing dispersed car parks, servicing and loading into a single car park and associated services, which would liberate the ground plane and allow for a high degree of activation on all street frontages; good both for the overall urban design and in commercial terms . The other strategy was to incorporate a strong food and beverage and retail component, similar to Collins Place, which would plug into the corporate blocks and >>
01 The chevron profile of 550 Bourke Street is clad in strips of black, reflective, fretted and textured glass resembling a chandelier
02 A series of additional lanes and arcades add to the permeability of this urban zone
COMM ERCIAL COLLABORATION
"YOU HAD THREE ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS COMING TOGETHER AND BOUNCING IDEAS AND PERSPECTIVES 0 FF EAcH 0 THE R~, CHARLES JUSTIN, SJB ARCHITECTS >> serve the precinct and local area. Then, as a tripartite group of architectural companies, we started from scratch using that strategy as the base point. Roger Nelson: A public arena had not really existed here; it had generally been aggregations of blocks and expressions of corporate existence. So there was enormous potential here to use the infrastructure of the city to host a public realm and supporting activities, rather than having big mute building blocks with the support facilities out the back. And, unlike Collins Place, the project maintains all the through ways, all the ant tracks, and in doing so activates all the edges. It is a more traditional Melbourne solution in that it wasn't privatised or internalised; the public domain remained public and was knitted back into the fabric of the city. AJ: Can you talk about this idea of somehow extending the city into the site, of engaging the context in the design? CJ: One of the challenges was that we were dealing with such a large site; how could we create that diversity of p~rsonas that makes up a city block? It was important, for instance, to give the retail a different persona than the corporate offices and yet not have one dominating the other. RN: Often those two things are at odds. Melbourne has done OK, but in
other cities, like Pert?, there's a quest to humanise the corporate persona, but the dominance of the corporate lobby and its determined sort of defence means it is really hard to infiltrate. There is corporate character around these main street addresses, but internally, off Goldsbrough Lane, the character is more relaxed, informal, with a much bigger vibe. The buildings fragment to the north and, as you walk along, it feels like the grain of the little laneway streets of Melbourne. The idea was to break up the retail into a series of modules, so that there are a series of smaller individual buildings that are a subset of the larger complex, with each having their own persona, and then referencing back to the different parts of the city. Certainly another architectural or urban agenda was to establish a relationship between our buildings and the context of the site. Our sandstone building references the Supreme Court, while the other corner office tower relates to 140 William Street, the old BHP tower, with its cross bracing. The bluestone building relates to other small pavilion-type buildings around the city, like the Mitre Tavern and the Goldsbrough building. We wanted a collective of buildings rather than one articulate architecture that is followed through to the nth degree. Âť
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COMM ERC IAL COLLABORATION
L Site plan
"WITH GOOD DES IGN YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE THE COMMERCIAL PROCESS TO DELIVER STRONG PUBLIC DOMAIN~' CHARLESJUSTIN , SJBARCHITECTS Âť AJ: There is precedent for this type of collaborative project and it raises questions about the future of the city and the character of its built fabric:. Will it be less of the sole practice being responsible for big signature building and more collaboration? JM: I would say that any one of us could have put this together on our own, and that would occur in most j~int venture cases. But a project like this usually comes from the client's side. They identify a firm that has produced something along the lines of what they are looking for, or they like the way they put together office buildings, but they might also have seen a retail project by NHA and then they like SJB's approach to master planning and so they cherry pick from a number of firms . The secret of making a joint venture work well is to put egos and other issues aside and assemble a pool of people - your best - and create what is to all intents and purposes a mini firm. CJ: One of the interesting things about this project is that with good design you can actually use the commercial process to deliver strong public domain. There wasn't a cent of public money in this; it was driven by the developer and ourselves. When you have the right considerations
and appropriate inputs there is no reason why you can't generate a great public outcome and the city is the beneficiary.
AJ: What about the issue of design authorship, was that an issue? CJ: Everyone likes to point at the project and say 'well, so and so did that and so and so did this'. Authorship is important, but it is only part of it .. . the authorship was strong here because the team was strong. What I found great about this process was that you had three architectural firms coming together and bouncing ideas and perspectives off each other. Typically, you are under so much pressure trying to get the project resolved that you don't always have the creative energy to consider all the various layers of the design. Here we were designing from the inside out , from the top down, designing in a very three-dimensional comprehensive way. The creative oomph of the collaborative approach meant that we were able to consider it in a creative way from day one. I think each of us would regard this as one of our better works. M
monumentmagazine.com.au/g4/cbw See more on the facade , as we ll as additional plans.
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