Talking the talk > 386-412 William Street, Melbourne

It has of late almost become the Elenberg Fraser show on Urban Melbourne, such is the quantity and quality of designs the ubiquitous architecture firm have produced during 2013. With a multitude of projects spearheaded by Elenberg Fraser either approved or before the relevant body seeking approval, none may be quite as impressive as 386-412 William Street, a project which 'talks' to its surrounds in a diverse manner that few other contemporary Melbourne developments could.

Client MIT Australia has pressed ahead to facilitate "A mixed use development comprising of two towers above a podium base. One tower houses only multi-unit residential apartments over 50 levels and the other houses both a hotel and multi-unit residential apartments over 30 levels." Identified as a gateway site to Melbourne's northern CBD, Elenberg Fraser have endeavoured to design an iconic building befitting of the location.

So how does this project 'talk' to its surrounds? Location plays a major role as seldom few sites around Melbourne hold such a quality, open position; Flagstaff Gardens, Queen Victoria Market and multiple transport options all metres away. With the 'iconic gateway' theme envoked, 386-412 William Street has been designed to maximise interaction within the immediate environment and no better example than the intended public bicycle hub facility that will front Franklin Street.

Recognising the worth of such a prime location, a staggering total of 988 bicycle bays will be accommodated with 372 of those for public use with shower, gym and locker facilities available. Potentially run as another Melbourne City Council Parkiteer facility, it's envisaged the facility will run jointly with a car sharing service and be defined by a public artwork marking its entrance akin to artist Ai WeiWei's work below right.

Five sub levels are dedicated to car parking and services with two levels available as a public car park. While most readers will agree that fewer cars within Melbourne's CBD would result in a more liveable CBD, 386-412 William Street along with the sinking of Queen Victoria Market's at grade car park as part of its overhaul, would lead to fewer cars clogging Queen Victoria Market and surrounds with more scope for urban realm enhancement and enjoyment. Sitting above the car park and within the retained existing facade facing both William Street and Franklin Street will be substantial retail/commercial space by way of a sizeable cafe and multiple tenancies including terraced double height retail offerings facing Flagstaff Gardens.

The notion of opening the existing building up to its surrounds is evident throughout the planning application, providing the opportunity to capture diversified pedestrian traffic. Compare 386-412 William Street to the rash of contemporary apartment buildings nearby, particularly along A'Beckett Street, which are quite insular in their relationship to the streetscape and it becomes evident this particular planning application seeks to 'talk' (insert embrace, involve or interact) with its immediate surrounds.

One of the main catalysts of such a large and varied podium is the anticipated inclusion of a 12 level hotel within the shorter eastern tower. Provisionally involving 210 rooms, the "Boutique hotel is proposed for the development as a major state tourism attractor that also provides an ongoing employment base for the site. The hotel recognises and contributes to the nationally significant tourist attraction that is the Queen Victoria Market, one of Melbourne and Victoria’s true icons." Such is the upwards demand for new hotel accommodation in Melbourne, the planning application also includes an expression of interest on behalf of the Ace Hotel Group indicating their willingness to anchor the hotel component as their first southern hemisphere venture.

Continuing a trend whereby architects cite valuable stones or gems as inspiration for their designs, according to Elenberg Fraser the two towers:

Yet another jewel in the crown of Melbourne’s city skyline. The crystalline structure of this precious jewel is created through its fragmented façade articulation. It brings alive Melbourne’s skyline from this northern gateway by reflecting and refracting the golden hues of the afternoon sun back through the Market precinct and Flagstaff Gardens with kaleidoscopic effect. Like the changing lighting of the Capitol Theatre ceiling, this new urban sculpture is ever changing as it picks up & re-radiates the sun’s rays throughout the day, and through the changing seasons year round.

Elenberg Fraser

Fractured, repetitive and modular in nature, the external facade is typical Elenberg Fraser in that it does what is practically required (sunshading, wind dispersion, maximised privacy, shadow minimisation) while doing it in an efficient and aesthetically pleasing nature.

Vital statstics for the project sees the taller tower at 161 metres house 493 apartments, while the 98 metre eastern tower carries 116 apartments in addition to the aforementioned 210 hotel suites, bringing the total to 819 habitable dwellings over a site of 3916 square metres. Of the 609 private apartments, 219 will be one bedroom, 373 are slated to hold dual bedrooms while 17 will involve three bedrooms. Supporting these apartments will be private 223 car spaces and 616 private bicycle bays in additional the the car/bike faclities made available to the public.

The podium rooftop will see a pool hug the Franklin Street boundary whilst accompanying landscaping will likely include outdoor barbecue area, raised and sunken timer decking, a sun deck and various plantings. The podium will also flow into both towers with residential facilities and dining spaces maintaining direct access to the outdoor area. Planting will also appear along the podium perimeter, in effect cascading down toward an enhanced street level which will feature bluestone paving, a realigned bus stop and street furniture.

ESD principles also feature heavily with Ark Resources preparing a report which:

Demonstrates that the proposed development achieves a Best Practice environmental design standard and is consistent with the City of Melbourne’s Eco City goals... A combination of sustainable design initiatives, fixtures, systems and appliances will be integrated into the building in order to achieve a 5 star Green Star Multi-Residential rating.

Ark Resources

Amongst 386-412 William Street's ESD features are rainwater harvesting, a cogeneration plant and a solar photovoltaic system at roof level.

With 386-412 William Street submitted late October, and final decision via state planning body DTPLI is likely to be announced into 2014.

Project Team

  • Client: MIT Australia
  • Architect: Elenberg Fraser
  • Town Planner: Urbis
  • Traffic Consultant: Traffix Group
  • Waste Management: Leigh Design
  • Landscape Consultant: Urbis
  • ESD Consultant: Ark Resources
  • Shadow Analyst: Orbit Solutions
  • Wind Engineer: VIPAC
  • Heritage Consultant: Bryce Raworth
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