Collins Square seemed another run-of-the-mill development until I had the chance last week to take a guided tour through the complex with no less than the development's General Manager, Michael Spence. Externally it displays all the restrained elegance that's expected of a Bates Smart design, and internally the innovative layout and finishes are of the highest order, culminating in The Lunch Room; a high quality communal retail space that’s accessible to the public.
Initially though, consider the likely access point for most pedestrians arriving via Collins Street as it connects from Spencer Street over Wurundjeri Way to Batman’s Hill Drive. 707 Collins Street aka The Lantern building is small in stature, yet striking in appearance. Its interface with the street was deliberately set-back to provide pedestrians with a clear line of sight into the project, whilst also making a contribution to the public realm; a plaza has been constructed over Village Street to connect The Lantern with the main Collins Square site. Works are for the most part complete, yet two striking markers will appear shortly reinforcing the notion of sense of place. Designed by sculptor Dion Horstmans, a large yellow steel canopy will be erected between The Lantern and 727 Collins Street creating a public marker that's expected to be an instantly recognisable meeting place for visitors and workers alike.
The above render provides an indication as to the scale and intricacy of the glazed sculpture that will cast an ever changing light pattern across the plaza. Further to this, high-profile restaurateur Pete Evans will deliver two new dining concepts at either end of the plaza, providing activation of the space. These venues are now under construction and will add to the public experience, bringing life to this section of Collins Street outside of business hours.
As for the star of the show, The Lunch Room was opened to the public last week and will make an instant impression upon those who visit. The spatial planning was designed by The Buchan Group, with Walker’s own interior designer working with Blackmilk Interior Design on the fit-out. The Lunch Room is accessed via a large atrium that seamlessly flows into a food court allowing for a grand feel to the area. Similar in certain aspects to the internal food court found at QV, yet with a more brooding sophisticated element. The Lunch Room is a high quality public space with attention given to the slightest detail; so much so Sydney-based developer Lang Walker was a weekly visitor inspecting progress and assuring all finishes met his exacting standards.
Currently home to nine food outlets such as Sobo Japanese and Edamama, the offerings will expand as more towers are developed. With this in mind Collins Square has intentions of opening over weekends in due course; visitors to Etihad Stadium currently have limited options available. Pete Evans' restaurants will go a long way to activating an area of Docklands that needs more critical mass to be successful outside of business hours. In due course it's expected that over time 48,000 people will traverse Collins Square daily enjoying a choice of services, food outlets, cafes, restaurants, fashion, grocery and specialty retailers once the complex is complete.
Another focal point recently unveiled is King Sun, a 48sqm mural conceived by renowned artist John Olsen. Located in the lobby of the recently completed Tower 1 anchored by Marsh & McLennan Companies, the Collins Square website carries the following description
"Olsen’s 6×8 metre piece is destined for the lobby of “Tower B” at Collins Square, Walker Corporation’s billion dollar complex of retail and office buildings at Docklands, designed by architects Bates Smart. It is the largest piece the 85-year-old has worked on since 1982′s Salute to Five Bells, his vibrant, blue mural for the Sydney Opera House." “In this mural it’s based on the sun and we’ve got these incredible images that were taken by NASA,” he said. “Working on that theme, the sun goes into dark corners, the sun gives us light – what’s at the end of it?”
Visible from Collins Street the mural takes pride of place, but only for now. Mounted on a wall that will eventually make way once the adjoining Tower 2 office tower is constructed, the mural will be relocated elsewhere within the expanded lobby. Upon completion of Tower 2, the common lobby will result in a cavernous, functional space with great connectivity between all areas, including The Lunch Room. As for Tower 2, Walker Corporation last week submitted plans for the Hassell-designed commercial building to the State Government (DPCD) for consideration. The approximately 60,000sqm complex is an evolution of the restrained Bates Smart designed commercial towers and is slated to include a three level mid-tower void laden with greenery.
Two other development sites round out Collins Square, one of which fronts Wurundjeri Way and lends itself to an exceptional design given it's in effect a marker into Melbourne's CBD for those arriving via the West Gate. Regardless Walker Corporation has made excellent strides in enhancing the user experience at Collins Square, one which will only improve as the development expands to its intended size.
See below further internal design features of The Lunch Room located within Collins Square, 727 Collins Street