The focus of today's article is Equiset's proposal at 710 Collins Street, designed by Hassell and potentially Docklands' tallest building at 189 metres. I will also touch briefly on the proposal's impact on the skyline together with Collins Square Tower 4D and Lend Lease's 701 Collins Street project (covered in a separate article) by way of a number of in context renders.
Equiset's proposal calls for the demolition of the barely 5-year old Elenberg Fraser designed 'Lantern' structure fronting Collins Street in addition to 7 bays of Goods Shed North, in order to accommodate a 34-storey Premium Grade commercial tower offering 47,500m2 (NLA) of office space. The office space will be supplemented by up to 1,200m2 of retail space, stronger connections between the Goods Shed and Collins Street via a new set of public stairs, a new laneway and public plaza.
The development is aiming for a minimum 5-Star Green Star Design & As Built, and a minimum 5-Star NABERS.
The proposed tower presents as a crystalline element on the skyline "whilst providing a glimpse of the overall super structure within." Hassell's scheme employs a largely homogenous glazed skin raised above a brick plinth that suggests an erosion of form, with openings 'carved in' to allow views from within and out, with the stair cascading down from Collins Street to the new lobby below.
While the Goods Shed and proposed tower never physically come into contact, a number of visual relationships are intimated through the timber-lined, vaulted underbelly of the tower. Generated from the profile of the goods shed and enhanced via the angled facade to the lower levels of the tower - the skyscrapers highly reflective glazing is designed to capture the Goods Shed in an almost ethereal reflection of what was once a much longer continuous structure.
The benefit of the proposed development is two fold - it frees up the Goods Shed from any new architectural intervention thus providing the public with a greater viewing opportunity of its interior and structure, allowing for an enhanced pedestrian experience. Additionally a new view is opened up through to the Goods Shed below and Stadium Precinct beyond (including another Hassell tower at 720 Bourke), framed by the vaulted ceiling above.
The ground floor area of the development is largely permeable with retail offerings flanking the new east-west laneway and activity spilling out on to it which should also go someway to activating both Aurora Lane and Village Street. The proposed treatment to these areas is a timber decking - a softer contrast to the robust brick plinth. Minimal car parking of only 8 spaces is included with an entry off Village Street; extremely low by any measure but particularly so for a commercial complex.
Cyclist facilities are proposed within the Goods Shed via Village Street with visitor bicycle spaces externally.
An area that could do with a bit more refinement is the westerly wall of the brick plinth, flanking the stairs and housing the substation. Currently it presents to the street and pedestrian as a blank brick wall save for the car park entry - now I love my brick but I would like to see a bit more articulation whether through the feathering of the brick, manipulation of the brick to create some sort of visual relief, or artwork or even a great big 710 Collins Street sign.
One of the aims of the development is to "re-establish and reconnect Batman's Hill to the traditional city of Melbourne by strengthening the CBD built form from Docklands." This begins to become evident when 710 Collins Street is viewed in the context of future development at Batman's Hill, namely the new 145m KPMG headquarters at Collins Square and the mammoth 701 Collins Street development - ten buildings ranging in height from 20m to 160m.
Batman's Hill was always envisioned as being the transitional threshold between the CBD and Docklands, yet visually this is only just beginning to become apparent.
One thing that is highlighted is an imbalance in the Batman's Hill precinct - with a taller, denser core towards the south of the precinct. Buildings such as 750 Collins Street, 700 Collins Street and 737 Bourke Street seem aesthetically and at a macro scale rather transitory, as if it's only a matter of time before they too are replaced by something taller and architecturally more adventurous.
As Docklands continues to mature I expect we will see more and more first generation (or G1 as I like to call them) commercial buildings replaced with taller, more striking buildings and 710 Collins is just the beginning of the next phase of Docklands evolution. While the partial demolition of Goods Shed North is unfortunate I believe the benefits to the public realm far outweigh the negatives. The employing of timber and masonry as more natural counter elements to the glazed steel structured tower is a huge positive for mine, resulting in a less sterile environment.
Overall I believe Hassell have designed an excellent scheme which strikes a good balance between the commercial requirements of their client, heritage concerns and benefits to the public realm.