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Rialto's regeneration done and dusted

How do you tie together a modern icon like the Rialto with an immediate next door neighbor, a gem of Victorian architecture, in a way that reflects the place of this building in the city and its future uses. The whole team has done a remarkable job in achieving that vision.

Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle

The words of Melbourne's Lord Major ring true for many locals. Rialto Towers is instantly recongisable as one of Melbourne's enduring built form icons, with the adjoining InterContinental Melbourne and York Butter Factory lower in stature but equally as important.

Now 31 years old, the Rialto Towers complex is nearing the end of an extensive facelift which has sought to better connect the hulking towers with the surrounding streetscape, whilst also adding value to the asset which is jointly controlled by Grollo Group and the Kuwaiti government-backed St Martins Properties.

Internal fit-outs continue, but the majority of works for the 8,000 square metre regeneration project are now complete and open to public perusal.

Rialto's new exterior perspective

Shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and offices are on show as part of the development, including the first Australian Mercedes me store.

The works of Woods Bagot, Rialto's new addition presents for the most as a uniform structure linking the ornate and timeless InterContinental Melbourne on Collins Street with King Street's former York Butter Factory. Atop the new retail and commercial building, a new rooftop areahas greenery and entertainment areas.

According to a recent interview with Grollo Group CEO Lorenz Grollo, the redevelopment spanned 10 years from conception to completion and has had at least 10 different architects involved at varying points. The new addition has sought to bring the ground plane into the 21st century, whilst the towers were still operating at near full occupancy.

Overall the refurbishment saw roughly $200 million split between the new build and upgrading the existing Rialto Towers.

A vastly different street level

According to construction firm Built, the project was not without its challenges:

Located on the corner of Collins and King Streets in the heart of Melbourne, the Rialto Regeneration project draws on all aspects of Built's expertise. Whilst preserving the working experience of 8,000 current building occupants, the project involves new construction of 5,000m² of commercial office space, complex refurbishment of the existing structure and lobby space, and high end office fitout works.

A new 6 storey office construction on the corner of the site is considerate of the existing tower design, with floor spaces connecting into the tower providing up to 3,000m² of office floor plates.

Built, Rialro Regeneration Project head contractor

With a build value of $74 million, the Rialto Regeneration Project has scored a MBA for Excellence in Health & Safety.

Canopy with Rialto Towers and the new addition visible

Of most intrigue from a design perspective is the new canopy that joins Rialto Towers with InterContinental Melbourne and the new low-rise building. Providing coverage from the elements, the grid shell format immediately draws the eye from the Collins Street entry point. Capable of being illuminated, the canopy sits above a substantial forecourt which is open to the public and has the ability to host exhibitions and/or events.

The deep blue of Rialto Towers' facade has been emulated across the the new building, opposed by offset, less translucent panels.

Upon first inspection, the new additions strike a balance between flair and function, particularly behind the new street facade, whilst also adding a more intimate "Melbourne' laneway experience to a local classic.

Rialto Towers' entry point has also been refashioned

3 comments

Bilby's picture

It's interesting to see the York Butter Factory mentioned here as "... lower in stature but equally as important" in heritage terms with the InterContinental Melbourne. If the York Butter Factory is so important, why no mention of the Robbs Building Annexe which formed part of the row?
Woods Bagot should be ashamed of themselves for being associated with it's demolition.

As for Grollo's track record on "important" Victorian heritage in Melbourne, not to mention "excellence in health and safety" - it speaks for itself.

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Jon McLeod's picture

Well, at least no brick walls fell over killing pedestrians this time. So that's a win.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Bilby, the Rialto is owned by Grollo Group (Rino Grollo) not Grocon (Daniel Grollo).

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