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Softly does it: 555 Collins Street in detail

555 Collins Street has been reported as having a variety of uses post its first public appearance close enough to two years ago. At that stage is was envisaged as a purely commercial tower, and at 404 metres would have put it firmly into the world's tallest buildings club.

Recent reports alluding to a mixed-use proposal with roughly half the tower dedicated to commercial space have been superseded once more, with the scheme under consideration heavily reliant upon apartments. With the project's available office space relegated to the podium, 555 Collins Street's Singaporean developer has chosen to include over 1000 apartments within the tower; a number which not all that long ago would have been considered impossible, but which has been achieved by a number of recent towering Melbourne proposals.

While the merits of approving 555 Collins Street are subject to deliberation, what is not up for debate is the design merit of the proposal which is explored below.

555 Collins Street planning application

Indicative model included within the town planning document. Image © Bates Smart
  • Current 2,292sqm site use: multi-level commercial tower
  • Planning application submitted August 2014
  • Proposed 91 level mixed-use tower
  • 6 commercial levels, 15 level hotel, 60 residential levels
  • 11,280sqm office space, 300 hotel rooms, 1,020 apartments
  • 203 car parking spaces & 301 bicycle bays within five basement levels
  • Total GFA: 134,557sqm
  • RL 302.9m

Design rationale

The design of the proposal will introduce a world class architectural response into the Melbourne CBD, one that captures the energy of the city, particular Collins Street and King Street. This sculptural form will be of a truly iconic nature, something entirely unique in comparison to anything that has been approved of constructed in Melbourne’s CBD.

Urbis, 555 Collins Street Planning Report

From concept to firm design the process makes for interesting reading within the town planning document, where the best part of 40 pages were dedicated to the design process. Initially Melbourne's penchant for fashion, celebration and nature provided the impetus to create a flowing tower befitting of a prominent location.

Cited design influences. Image © Bates Smart

Following a meeting with wind engineers, where it was suggested that softening sharp corners were required to deal with wind conditions, we started exploring a softer expression of the two slipped soft forms.

Where the peel or fold occur between the two slipped forms of the tower, this could signal balconies or openings. As it meets and morphs with the podium, this could celebrate the entry and change in uses.

Bates Smart, town planning report

Consequently a soft, flowing tower with subtle variances in movement was created where the podium to tower transformation is most evident. By doing so Bates Smart have sought to effectively 'channel' the energy from street level and continue it up the height of the tower, particularly from the Collins Street aspect.

Concept to creation. Image © Bates Smart

Hand in hand with the soft form architecture is the facade treatment which brings a unique finish to the proposal's exterior. From bubble wrap to art installations and existing buildings, many examples were cited in explaining the tower's unique skin. With varying window sizes over the tower, the effect is to create a wave-like pattern shifting from solid to transparent over the height of the tower.

From the ground up

Internal configuration. Image © Bates Smart

A split ground level is in play where lower ground will encompass vehicle entry, loading bays, services and hotel porte cochère. Upper ground fronts King and Collins, with three separate entry points consisting of a residential lobby fronting Collins Street at 215sqm, office lobby fronting Collins Street at 320sqm and hoitel lobby fronting King Street at 440sqm. Dual retail spaces of 90sqm and 70sqm are also present.

Level 1 holds hotel amenities with the following 6 levels dedicated to office space. Level 8 is a dedicated plant level with level 9 providing further hotel amenities including pool, gym, lounge, spa and terrace. Levels 10-24 feature the 300 hotel suites while level 25 is dedicated to plant. Level 26 ushers in the apartment component with a sky lobby, followed by 27-66 which hold 680 apartments, or 17 per level.

Plant area once more for level 67 while 68 is split between amenities including a lap pool, spa and sauna plus five apartments. Further apartments are over levels 69-88, providing another 340 dwellings. Crowned with further plant levels, 555 Collins Street is at its highest point RL 302.9 metres with an RL of 3.1 metres at ground level, being the passageway to the rear of the site. Thus overall height is 299.8 metres or 295.9 from Collins Street.

As it stands

During November 2014 an officers report was prepared for the Future Melbourne Committee concerning amendments to the existing incorporated document in the Melbourne Planning Scheme entitled ‘Shadow Controls, 555 Collins Street, February 2013.

The amendment seeks to allow the consideration of a planning application for the construction of a tall mixed use building that will significantly overshadow the south and north banks of the Yarra River. The amendment will not provide any public benefit, or any additional contribution to the public realm. The removal of conditions means that there will be no built form constraints imposed on the development site and there will be no expiry of the exemption provided by the incorporated document.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee

As such advice to the Future Melbourne Committee/Melbourne City Council at the time was that Council should not support the request to amend the Incorporated Document Shadow Controls, 555 Collins Street, Melbourne, February 2013.

Since its submission during September 2014, no changes have been logged for 555 Collins Street's application status on the Minister for Planning Permit Application Register; perhaps the project's proponents are waiting for an official edict from Planning Minister Richard Wynne prior to making their next move? Then again perhaps the may be surprised with a favourable outcome?

555 Collins Street development team

  • Developer: Fragrance Group
  • Urban Context Report: Bates Smart Architects
  • Development plans: Bates Smart Architects
  • Planning: Urbis
  • ​Aviation Report: Airport Consultancy Group Pty Ltd
  • Traffic Engineering Assessment: Traffix Group
  • Sustainability: NDY
  • Wind assessment: Mel Consultants
  • Waste Management: Leigh Design
  • Land sales agent: Mark Wizel, CBRE.
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