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When the podium works... it really works

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The humble podium can be a tough task to master.

There are plenty of misses, in both old and new builds, scattered around the inner city… as there are exemplary podium design outcomes. The latest project to put itself forward as a shining example of what an authentic, interactive and aesthetically excellent podium can be is 308 Exhibition Street.

Recently covered by Urban Melbourne, 308 Exhibition Street is the joint work of COX Architecture and Fender Katsalidis Architects for developer SP Setia. As interesting as the tower form is, the intended project's podium is worthy of individual praise.

It acts as the main conduit between the development and street level, and provides the opportunity to introduce a human scale to the site which for many years has been devoid of activity, given its use as an annex to one of Telstra's main Melbourne major data centres/telephone exchanges.

At ground, the proposal integrates and strengthens the existing public realm and through site connections, maximizing opportunities to activate and enliven street edges and then inviting pedestrian movement into and through the heart of the site.

A verdant public forecourt extends the greenery of the gardens into the development; an urban sanctuary at the gateway of the CBD.

308 Exhibition Street urban context report
308 Exhibition Street's podium. Planning image: COX/FKA

At street level, 308 Exhibition Street's podium is split between lower ground and ground levels, owing to the site's slope. A plaza, hotel lobby, bike share space and childcare lobby are the main activating areas across lower ground, whereas ground itself is a mixture of retails spaces, lobbies and an upper landscaped plaza.

In the true sense of a mixed-use project, 308 Exhibition Street's podium also encapsulates an indoor/outdoor childcare centre, bike station, apartments, hotel suites, a lounge and restaurant, sky lobby, pre-function spaces, a ballroom, terrace, various resident/hotel amenities and car parking shrouded by the podium structure itself.

Externally the podium is clad with pre-fabricated composite steel panels in a ceramic finish. The underside of the panels features strip LED lighting. Watertight removable planter boxes are most prominent over the podium, and diminish as the podium morphs into the towers proper; this is a nod to the Carlton Gardens directly opposite.

The development of 308 Exhibition Street creates a unique opportunity to provide a high quality address to the northern entry to Melbourne’s CBD, link to the adjacent parkland precinct and add to the network of iconic streets and laneways throughout the CBD.

The proposal includes: a generous entry plaza, activated building edges, new laneway, animated landscapes comprising plantings, art and water elements as well as ‘greened’ buildings with extensive podium level landscapes.

The internal laneway is located on the southern boundary and links from Exhibition Street in an east west direction to Burton Street. This legible and generous link is animated by a dynamic digital screen to provide a themed and dynamic illuminated experience to the public and residents guests and visitors.

T.C.L Landscape Design
Cutaway podium diagram. Planning image: COX/FKA

308 Exhibition Street is not the only prospective podium of great merit in Melbourne at the moment.

Other noteworthy pending builds with inviting and aesthetically pleasing podiums include Queens Place, Conservatory, 54 Clarke Street, Box Hill's Sky One, Capitol Grand South Yarra and of course the freshly approved Jean Nouvel inspired 383 La Trobe Street with its mesmerisingly multi-coloured arcade. Another podium of great design merit is Fridcorp's prospective 627 Chapel Street tower which is understood to be under appeal.

It could be argued that all of the above projects will create a demonstrably better public realm outcome/interface when they are realised.

Conversely, there are some podium failures in recent times, with the finger being pointed toward at clutch of towers lining the northern end of Elizabeth Street. With recent changes to planning laws enacted, the hope and expectation is that the above examples will become the norm, rather than the exception.

Podiums with intent: 54 Clarke Street, Queens Place and 383 La Trobe Street

3 comments

Michael Berquez's picture

Fantastic. Thanks for this article.

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pdoff's picture

The evidence that Wynne's new regulations are improving public amenity outcomes with new proposals is really starting to stack up.

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3000's picture

Excellent article. Good to see that in recent years developers and the public are starting to demand better ground level outcomes.
I liked that you pointed to the top end of eliz as an example not to follow. I would also point out that currently Southbank is also home to some of our worst offenders.

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