How do you adequately express in words how impressive Elenberg Fraser's latest and likely greatest design really is? The futuristic structure is just... astounding.
Simple yet complicated, monolithic but still graceful, unrealistic yet practical; it makes any admirer of quality design take notice... I can't put it any other way. Last week The Australian reported the project had "Secured a permit to demolish the company’s headquarters on Sturt Street and build a 41-storey apartment tower," although there has been no other mention elsewhere.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has a fondness for publicly announcing large-scale residential projects and given this development finds itself in a precinct of architecturally significant buildings, I can only surmise it hasn't received approval yet.
The shape is unique to any Melbourne building and is best described by Elenberg Fraser:
The building form consists of two dominant floor plates that are connected by a transitional twist in the building. The twist in the building form is a response to the twisting forms of the freeway and Kings Way either side of the site; something that has been identified in the landscaping of the freeway exit ramp.
Facade finishes are also of an excellent quality and consist of ceramic fritted, clear and reflective silver glass which plays off the polished stainless steel solid panels incorporated predominantly over the north and south facades. At a moments notice I can't recall too many Melbourne buildings that employ reflective stainless steel in great proportions?
Perhaps the tower is at its best after dark when a monochromatic lighting system is put to use, highlighting the sleek, transitional form of the tower. As seen in the lead image:
The lighting highlights the unwrapping of the apartments to the street lower down the buildings which culminates with an interactive canopy at street level. The canopy provides multiple functions; it shelters pedestrians and their activities beneath, it intrigues the passerby with its ability to project information, it provides safe ambient lighting at night and it creates a definitive entrance for the residents above.
The subject site is covered by a Melbourne Planning Scheme overlay which calls for a discretionary 40 metre height limit, although as the architect explains within the planning report there is scope for an architecturally significant building to exceed the discretionary limit. Elenberg Fraser asserts the building has the potential to create a positive connection between the Arts Precinct and South Melbourne.
City of Melbourne have no public opinion on the proposal as yet, but you don't have to go out on a limb to suggest they will take the 'It's far too tall' stance which is their perogative.
In this case all parties seek an outcome that leads to buildings of quality and good urban design. There can be little dispute that a quality tall building can be a better outcome than a poorly designed small building. In planning, there is an underlying imperative to achieve high quality urban design outcomes.
Is the above enough to see approval and consequently a new benchmark for height in this stretch of Sturt Street that currently has no genuine high-rise structures? 248-250 Sturt Street, Southbank seems to be the canary down the mineshaft of sorts. The result will be interesting but one thing is known for sure, the author's admiration for this design is absolute!