Last month the City of Melbourne's Future Melbourne committee resolved to provide conditional support for Lend Lease's C1 & C2 commercial development at Batman's Hill within Docklands. Located at 695 Collins Street between Media House and Collins Square, the development consists of two mid scale commercial buildings of 11 and 12-storeys respectively. The two buildings are separated by a north-south pedestrian thoroughfare to be called Market Place Lane linking Collins Street with future stages of the development.
While generally supporting the proposal as a crucial physical and visual link between Docklands and the CBD, City of Melbourne's greatest concerns generally relate to the buildings' appearance and impact. In particular Council's urban design department were critical of the horizontal emphasis and uniformity of the design, which they argue produces the visual effect of a singular homogenous building mass.
This homogenous building mass it's argued would create a barrier and a less inviting pedestrian experience for visitors into the City Room space - a community space which is proposed to be constructed as part of the later stages of the development plan.
The same material, colour, line and character of the above-ground levels of both buildings, and the horizontal emphasis of line within them, makes for an apparent effect of one super-long building, not two, and buildings without any visual depth and variety that would be necessary to enable two buildings to be composed in a similar way.
The effect is that these buildings do not afford the richness, appeal and porosity that good city buildings do.City of Melbourne
The report to Future Melbourne goes on to express disappointment that while these concerns were communicated in pre-application meetings they were ultimately not addressed in the lodged documentation. Suggested changes to the detailed design of the facades in order to provide greater definition and articulation between the upper levels of the two buildings was the asked for solution.
One interesting aspect of the design is the potential for large-scale artworks on the southern exposed cores of both buildings.
As the elevation above illustrates the opportunity exists for a high degree of visual interest on an otherwise monotonous and large surface area; but one that nonetheless requires a thoughtful rather than token design response. No detail for this mooted artwork has been submitted so the exact nature of what and how remains to be seen.
The proposal to utilise artwork as an acceptable initial way of treating the blank and highly visible southern walls is a big expectation, and risk, despite the expected delivery of future-stage buildings that are likely to shield the artwork from longer views from without the site.
The artwork will have to be well curated and executed, to work with the scale of context and building, and to be effective (meaningful) to both the first-time visitor and to the everyday occupier/ passer-by.City of Melbourne
The City of Melbourne's views on the development are generally in keeping with those previously expressed on Urban Melbourne. The scale of both buildings although lower than what was originally indicated in the development plan (which allowed for 90m) in my view is a better outcome from a street level perspective. Theoretically this results in a more inviting pedestrian environment, not just to Collins Street but to the internal public spaces to the south via greater solar access.
The articulation of each individual building as dual volumes of varied height is a good method for reducing the visual mass of a building, however when the same strategy is employed across two buildings which are treated the same way in terms of materials and finishes - it fails to achieve the desired result. A juxtoposition of vertical elements across one building versus horizontal on another may better achieve this.
Primary to this however is the argument as to whether the present scheme goes far enough in terms of design excellence for such a prominent site which boasts a Collins Street frontage. It will be interesting to see whether the City of Melbourne's recommendations are taken on board and how these manifest into a quality design solution, if at all.
Focusing on the southern cores I have looked at some potential applications beyond static artwork. A green wall for instance would help soften and enliven the interface with a public space:
There is also potential for a strong graphic element focusing on the site's history and association with Melbourne founder John Batman:
Let us know what you think is the best strategy for the cores in the comments below.
|Setbacks||None to Collins Street or Aurora Lane||None to Collins Street and a 12m setback to the eastern site boundary|
|Staging||Building C1 and associated public realms will be delivered first, followed by C2 and associated public realms.|