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Federation Square

Peter Maltezos's picture

Federation Square

South-east corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street, Melbourne



Federation Square was one of the most ambitious construction projects ever undertaken in Australia, involving a large team of specialists.




• Project Design: Lab architecture studio + Bates Smart (1997 - 2003)


• Managing Contractor: Multiplex (1998 - 2003)

 Deck construction: 1996 - 1997 (Leighton Contractors)


The size of an entire city block, Federation Square is a living, breathing focus for Melbourne and Victorian community life positioned in the very centre of the city. It brings together a creative mix of attractions, including galleries, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, bars, two dedicated function centres, festivals, events and public open spaces embraced by some of the most stunning architecture in the world.


My own photos of Federation Square. smiley




One of the most photogenic sites in Melbourne allows for a plethora of postcards as seen below.




A concert scene below.




The DCM design that was rejected below.




The Website:

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Design Competition


The selection of architects for Federation Square was based on an open, international, two-stage design competition, which demanded the design of a new civic square capable of accommodating up to 20,000 people in an open-air amphitheatre. In addition, the project included cultural and commercial buildings, on a 3.8ha block to be built above the Jolimont railyards. The rationalisation of the Jolimont railyards, the demolition of the universally despised Gas and Fuel Towers, and the celebration of Australia's Centenary of Federation, provided the impetus for the completion of this important project.


There was a large response to the competition, 177 entries eventually being received, of which 41 were from overseas - including 18 from the UK and 6 from the USA.


Lab architecture studio, based in London at the time, produced one of the five plans shortlisted at the end of the first stage and, in order to proceed further with the competition, it formed a partnership with Bates Smart, one of Melbourne's most prominent firms of architects.


In July 1997, Lab architecture studio, in conjunction with Bates Smart, were awarded the design contract for Federation square. Lab architecture relocated their office to Melbourne and undertook the complex task of designing arguably Australia's most ambitious civic and cultural precinct.


Then and now


Above, Gas & Fuel corporation Towers (Princes Gate), completed in 1967 and demolished in 1997 to make way for Federation Square below.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Federation Square


Edited by Clare Coney

Hardie Grant Books

First published in 2003


In print


Federation Square is a celebration of the building and architecture, and tells the story of how this corner block developed over the years – from an indigenous camp and meeting place to the city’s first morgue, then the site of the infamous Gas & Fuel towers to the Federation Square of today.

The book explains the complexities of the project,  such as the logistics of constructing a deck over the Jolimont Rail Yards to the intricate geometry of the facades and the technology of the labyrinth and the engineering feat  of the Atrium. It also takes you through the precincts, which include the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, ACMI: The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, SBS, the Square, the Atrium, St Paul’s Court and the Melbourne Visitor Centre, the Yarra Building and Transport, explaining the particular construction and design features of each.


A great book about a great place.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Koorie Heritage Trust Celebrates 30th Anniversary With A New Home

Saturday 19 September 2015

The Koorie Heritage Trust has celebrated its 30th anniversary by moving to a new location at Federation Square, allowing it to put more of its collection on public display than ever before.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins and Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley joined artists and Trust representatives to celebrate the anniversary and officially open the new premises, funded with a grant of $2.1 million by the Victorian Government.

At the heart of one of Victoria’s busiest meeting places, locals and visitors will be able to view more of the Trust’s art and cultural collection as well as browse a gift shop selling south east Australian Aboriginal art, craft and design.

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Steve Raider's picture

Look how the absence of the Visitor Centre opens it up. They should relocate it.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

New Screens To Light Up Federation Square

29 August 2017

Federation Square is set to become one of the world’s first outdoor digital art galleries.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren visited Federation Square today to announce a set of state-of-the-art digital experience screens – a wall of LEDs adorning the exterior of the Transport building.

Mobile interactive screens will feature in various locations around the Square, while improvements to free Wi-Fi are also planned.

The screens will replace the current big screen, giving locals and visitors at the Square a better viewing experience for the big arts, sports and cultural events.

Once complete, the new screens will feature a full schedule of programs – including works by students, cultural groups and local artists.

A temporary live stage and screen will be erected during construction to ensure the summer events program can continue, which includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Federation Square is a key part of why Victoria is the tourism and major events capital of Australia. The Square has welcomed more than 100 million visitors since opening in 2002.

Construction will begin in October.

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Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.


Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.

Transport & Design

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 12:00
When a site spans 19,280 square metres, it becomes a 'district'. That's the case according to the development team behind the Jam Factory's pending overhaul. Reporting on the project to date has focused on the close to 60,000 square metres of new commercial space that is earmarked for the site, but more importantly from a layperson's perspective is the extensive new public realm that is planned as part of the development.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.