So very Melbourne > 228-238 Normanby Road, South Melbourne

Brooding, sleek and elegant...we like this one, we really like it. Prominent Melbourne architecture firm Rothe Lowman have expanded to their burgeoning Fishermans Bend projects portfolio with the addition of 228-238 Normanby Road, Southbank.  Submitted for consideration during early October the scheme is on behalf of site proponent Perpetual Normanby Pty Ltd, a CBD-based company which appears on Urban Melbourne for the first time.

Prior to delving into the particulars it's worth noting that 228-238 Normanby Road lies within the specified 'towers above podiums' zone according to the draft State Government height limits for Fishermans Bend, as illustrated below.  In essence, this particular site located within the Montague Precinct has no impending height limits and as such should have an unfettered path through the planning process.  This is in contrast to other existing nearby planning applications which at this point have an uncertain approvals process due to their location within potentially height limited zones.

The subject site finds itself within close proximity to the West Gate Freeway, with limited development potential between it and the expansive CBD and Southbank primarily due to the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre to north-east. Regardless the Port Melbourne light rail is within walking distance as are the retail and amenity offerings of South Wharf.

Rothe Lowman describes the scheme as a development that "Will make a major contribution to the surrounding public realm and will be defined by high-quality architecture. A contemporary architectural expression with sensitivity to existing surrounds has been the basis for our design response."  And that response comes in the shape of two residential towers sitting atop a visually common podium heavy with residential amenity, retail spaces and activation via a predominantly home office wrap.

Emphasis is placed upon the relationship between the two towers where both maintain a convex form when addressing each other.  External lift wells face one another at the towers closest point of separation which stands at 13 metres, where the convex shape maximises sight lines for residents of both towers whilst also mitigating wind effects (in addition to tower orientation).  It's expected that the western 39 level tower will be developed initially (Stage A) followed in due course by the 49 level eastern tower closer to Melbourne's CBD (Stage B).

Together the towers are expected to add 525 apartments or well over another 1000 Melburnians to Southbank, where Stage A sees 230 apartments offered while the larger Stage B is expected to yield 295 apartments thereafter.  An accumulated break down sees 296 1 bed/1 bath options which account for over 54% of all envisaged dwellings on offer, 221 2 bed/2 bath options, 6 1/2 bed home office spaces and 2 2/3 bed duplexes on offer.

The podium is near Brutalist in appearance and in stark contrast to the towers above, yet is designed to interact with the immediate surrounds via its activated wrap. Within the lower levels lie all services, 243 car parking spaces and 242 bicycle bays.  Externally passersby will be met by a 363 m² retail space fronting the length of Montague Street within the Stage A while the separate podium of Stage B will hold a 246 m² retail space fronting Normanby Road.

Above the ground floor a mixture of apartments, home offices and duplexes bring activity and variety to levels two and three, while three separate amenity spaces are incorporated into Stage A.  Two areas over levels four and five are in addition to the entire sixth floor being set aside for communal use.  Add Stage B's level 48 to the cause and total project residential amenity amounts to 1116 m²; it seems that if you can't find some relief within 228-238 Normanby Road, you're just not trying!

External finishes utilise what is a very Melbourne palette of materials; dark blue grey curtain wall glazing, charcoal/natural precast panels, metal cladding, bluestone and a splash of gold over the ground floor.  Add the light vertical metal fins over the towers and the end result is indeed a subtle yet exceptional looking apartment complex that draws parallels to buildings such as Rialto and Melbourne Central in part.

I for one hope this particular planning application is realised.


All images  © Rothe Lowman


Nicholas Harrison's picture

Overall a good effort from Rothe Lowman but based on the interim design guidelines there are a few issues that need to be addressed:

- It is way off meeting the dwelling diversity objective which requires a Maximum of 25% 1 bedroom and minimum of 25% 3 bedroom apartments. 54% of the apartments are one bedroom and less than 1% are three bedroom. This objective is important to ensure that more apartments suitable for families are created to broaden the future demographics of the area.

- It looks like a majority of the Montague Street podium above ground level is screened car parking rather than active uses and there is too much blank wall on the other frontages.

- There are excessive blank walls, services and vehicular crossovers on the Normandy Road and Munro Street frontages. Having stairwells and bicycle parking areas directly adjacent to these frontages is a poor design response.

- The cut off corners on the Montague Street frontage are discouraged as an urban area benefits from continuous and well defined street spaces as well as direct contact between pedestrians and adjoining uses.

- The recommended setbacks for towers are 10m from all boundaries and 20 meters between towers which this proposal does not meet. I think the curved form of the towers does justify a variation to these setbacks but I don't think setbacks of less than five meters from Normandy and Munro frontages are justified. The controls encourage slender, tall towers to allow for greater setbacks, so they could make the towers taller to compensate.

-The number of parking spaces is twice the recommended rate.

If developers want continued political support and public acceptance of high rise development they have to start getting this stuff right.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

City of Port Phillip have supported this proposal subject to conditions that generally address the issues I outlined above.

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