Days of Future Past: CUB Site Carlton

With the release of X-Men: Days of Future upon us we once again find ourselves delving deep into the Urban Melbourne archives, this time perusing the various incarnations of Grocon's Swanston Square project at the top end of Swanston Street. Like the film's impressive roll call of big name actors, the site is similarly playing host to an all-star cast of local architects.

It's difficult to comprehend that 8 years have passed since Grocon first acquired the site (save for the south-east corner now housing the Design Hub) from RMIT back in late 2006. In that time only RMIT's Design Hub & the Pixel building have been completed with the 30-storey Portrait on the cusp of topping out.

A brief 'recent' history

  • Grocon purchases site from RMIT for approximately $40 million during 2006.
  • NH Architecture are appointed to oversee the master plan and urban design aspects of the former brewery with a brief that called for 120,000sq m of commercial space and 600 apartments, plus 150 underground parking spaces. Heritage fragments such as the old Malthouse building and bluestone facades fronting Bouverie Street are to be retained and incorporated into the new development while the Swanston Street vista towards the Shrine of Remembrance is to be preserved and extended into the site.
  • A design ideas competition is run for each of the five buildings, encouraging a diversity of architecture. Ten architects are invited to submit proposals for the site based on the master plan developed by NH.
  • The successful architectural firms are announced in mid-2007 - ARM, DCM, MCR, MVS & NH.

Over a two part article we discuss the history of each land parcel of the former CUB Carlton site:

BUILDING #8 - Pixel - Studio 505 Pty Ltd

Completed in July 2010, the 1,100 sq.m Pixel building was the first building constructed on-site and was to act as Grocon's site office for the duration of the construction phase at The Brewery. It is most notable for being the first carbon neutral office building in Australia, generating its own power and water on-site. Most striking is its colourful facade comprising a random assortment of recycled panels of various shapes, sizes and colours which help shade the interior spaces and reduce glare.

Pixel has achieved a perfect score of 100 under the Greenstar rating system, with 75 points the benchmark for 6 Star Greenstar. It gained an extra five points for innovation, equating to world leadership. Included in Pixel's five innovation points were points for carbon neutrality, a vacuum toilet system, the anaerobic digestion system and reduced car parking.

Pixel has also achieved a perfect 105 points under the US LEED rating scheme making it the highest rating building of any yet certified for LEED anywhere in the world. It is aiming to exceed the highest score yet achieved under the UK BREEAM rating systems. To put that into context, there are approximately 40,000 buildings registered worldwide under those three rating schemes, and Pixel would be at the forefront of all of them.

For more info visit:

RMIT Design Hub - Sean Godsell + Peddle Thorp

The 10-storey design, research and education facility on the corner of Victoria and Swanston Streets opened in late 2012. Comprising a series of large flexible indoor 'warehouse' style spaces running the length of the building, the complex is designed to promote collaborative learning and research amongst various disciplines. The Design Hub houses the Design Archives, a Virtual Reality Centre, a workshop, Multipurpose Room, Lecture Theatre, and four rooftop Pavilions with a cafe at lower ground level.

More than 1700 sq.m is dedicated to exhibition spaces with an exhibition corridor running the length of the building along Swanston Street. A cascading public forecourt links the Design Hub and the RMIT Design Archives.

The purpose of the Design Hub is to provide accommodation in one building for a diverse range of design research and post graduate education. RMIT is a world leader in design research however post graduates are currently dissipated across various campuses and facilities. The Hub will provide a collegial research base where post graduates in fields such as fabric and fashion design will work alongside those involved in architecture, aeronautical engineering, industrial design, landscape architecture, urban design and so on.

Research groups have the ability to locate and fine tune their accommodation within ‘warehouses’ - open plan spaces where research teams can set up and tailor their work environment to suit their particular needs. Teams may stay for anywhere from six months to three years depending on the nature of and funding limits to their research and education programs. Research may include the need for workshops to make physical models to be located alongside computer studios, three dimensional printing, virtual reality modelling and so on.

Given the time frames associated with research projects all the warehouses require a high level of adaptability and flexibility. In that sense these spaces are designed to accommodate the organic nature of research - ever evolving, adapting, changing and growing.

Sean Godsell, Architect

The Design Hub won the Victorian Architecture Medal and the William Wardell Award at the 2013 Victorian Architecture Awards.

BUILDING #5 - Portrait - ARM Architecture

The one constant throughout various design proposals over the years is ARM, who first developed a winning scheme for a $300m development on the site in the 1995, but which was never built.

ARM won an invited competition for a $300 million redevelopment of the former CUB site in 1995. This project included student housing, two towers, multimedia centre, residential apartments, commercial offices, a hotel, cinemas, retail and carparking. This scheme at the termination of the Shrine of Remembrance axis made a provocative urban and formal response by deflecting to create a spectacular anti-monumental void. This development did not go ahead, but the concept for this proposal informs the new scheme for the ARM designed office building in the current CUB master plan.

The office finally see one of their designs come to fruition in the form of the building formerly known as Portrait. Originally conceived as a 20-storey office building the development forms the first stage of the rebranded Swanston Square:

This 20-storey office tower faces down the Swanston Street axis towards the Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road. Architect Howard Raggatt said the building would be a new gateway to Melbourne, akin to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Shrine of Remembrance was a "profoundly symbolic element" of Melbourne's city centre, Mr Raggatt said, and it was crucial a significant building at the other end of the city faced the Shrine.

The design has since evolved into a literal interpretation of the building facing the shrine, in the form of William Barak's face across it's 32-storeys. Currently under construction, the face will be partly obscured by the Design Hub with only views from close proximity affording pedestrians a glimpse of it in full.

In part two tomorrow, we highlight those land parcels not yet constructed, including CEL Australia's 156-172 Victoria Street proposal at 253 metres.

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