Plus Architecture's shimmering Burbank House proposal revealed

Plus Architecture have unveiled another of their burgeoning portfolio of current projects by way of a new 57 level residential tower in the northern reaches of Melbourne's CBD. Developer Burbank Australia is seeking approval for the residential conversion of 96-102 Franklin Street which has acted as its inner city office for some years.

Burbank House as it's known is no stranger to proposed development with Burbank Australia gaining approval during 2002 for a residential conversion of the existing building into an 11 level complex holding 95 apartments. Prior to this a permit was also issued for a 25 level residential tower onsite.

It is in part a reflection of Melbourne's shift toward high-rise living that the current Plus Architecture-led planning application lodged during December 2015 is by far and away the largest proposal that the site has accommodated.

Burbank House as it currently stands

Reaching 177 metres, the 57 level building will hold a total of 270 apartments split between a number of living options. 10 heritage apartments are designed into the tower's lower levels with 129 one bedroom, 109 two bedroom and 22 three bedroom/penthouses skyhomes rounding out the tower.

186 bicycle spaces and 86 vehicle bays have also been included, with a regeneration of the existing Franklin Street facade also expected. The following description of the tower was provided:

The focus is on community and communal spaces with an artisan workshop and artisan heritage apartments within the podium. The building also consist of a dining/master kitchen area with a mezzanine lounge, 2 storey residents library and games room, yoga room, herb garden and pool.

The façade is inspired by crystalline structures. Each crystal module on the building is sized to reflect the internal programme behind. The overall language is both unifying and personalised.

The context is multiplied and refracted in the angular glass façade creating a kaleidoscope reflecting the multiplicity of the city surrounds.

Plus Architecture
Hero perspective of the development. Image courtesy Plus Architecture

When placed in context, 96-102 Franklin Street would almost be lost in the upcoming crop of tall residential towers in the surrounding area. Earlier this month Urban Melbourne published an updated model of the CBD's north end illustrating no less than 9 residential towers in the surrounding blocks ranging from planning to construction that are in excess of 200 metres.

With the addition of 97 Franklin Street and Swanston Central atop the former CUB site this number swells to 11 towers.

While 96-102 Franklin Street sits on the periphery of this cluster, the forthcoming 200 metre tower expected for Victoria Market's Munro site will share the same block as Plus Architecture Franklin Street design, further adding to the tremendous bulk this pocket of Melbourne's CBD is experiencing.


Bilby's picture

Another "shimmering" skyscraper. The city as hall of mirrors - is this going to be our collective vision for the 21st century - and endless intra urban manifold of reflective skins?

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Michael Berquez's picture


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Mark Baljak's picture

What would you propose Bilby - an oversized cardboard box?

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mAUSfree's picture

What ever happened to the theory less is more? Just what we need another Apartment building that looks like an office tower. EF & Plus destroying our skyline.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

looks like they designed a tower assuming they could totally demolish the heritage building (as EF probably want on most of their projects), then when realising they had to retain at least a facade they continued on with the same design regardless of context

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Bilby's picture

While I can appreciate some of the finer points of cardboard construction, Mark, no that's not what I had in mind. Nevertheless, the materiality of cities is just as important as other considerations - and even "shimmering" curtain wall glass can become oppressive when used on every major project. So, yes, why not cardboard ... or concrete, expressed steel frame or some other inventive cladding or structure?

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Adam Ford's picture

I don't understand. I thought this was an urbanism forum.
The editorial seems to be these days basically about pumping out developer's media releases for them.
How could you write this article without even in passing mention that the building totally breaks the height limit for that part of Franklin street? Though of course Council wanting to build a similar sized thing behind it will be the precedent and this pocket was deliberately left out of the area where controls were made mandatory for this reason. I don't expect cutting edge investigative journalism, and I do expect you're going to see a lot of industry puff, but honestly. This is supposed to be an article contextualising the development proposal.

But it's missing the above important context, in addition to any mention of the fact that it's proposed full facadism, which is another area of ongoing urbanist debate that this article should want to play into.

I have no problem with seeing developers editorial on here. But I do have a problem with articles supposedly summarising a proposal that appears to be exclusively that and intentionally ignore ALL of the negative contexts.

I'm not saying this article should say "keep the whole heritage building", but it should at least mention heritage. Same for height.

Was this a paid article? Do "Related Industry Hub Members" have certain editorial privileges?

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Mark Baljak's picture


This website has been nothing if not consistent over the journey - and it always will be.

This is an article based on the scant few details we have on the project, not the planning report. I assure you I'll let you know when we receive said planning report and you can pour over it as you see fit.

In terms of heritage, I'm not across relevant issues for this particular site (as per most others) so I don't write on what I don't have intricate knowledge of.

On a wider note the editorial line is ours to take, I guess that's a privilege that comes with the long hours and hard work involved with a venture such like this. As always articles which are sponsored are marked as such - nothing has changed there.

And as a cherry on top I've repeatedly asked individuals such as Bilby who are ardent and valued contributors to type an article highlighting commonly held concerns regarding heritage and the like (views which are held by a good portion of viewers and website members no doubt).

Somehow these articles have never come. Adam are you up to the challenge?

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SYmlb's picture

Maybe I missed it, but what is actually happening to Burbank House itself? From what I read, there will be "heritage apartments" on the lower levels, so what is being retained exactly?

From what others are saying it sounds as though it is just a facade being retained, but that isn't specified exactly. Can anyone clarify?

FWIW, I like the design of the tower itself. Would like to see the plans and other perspectives first but it seems good.

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Bilby's picture

Re: Burbank House - if Ellenberg Fraser's track record is anything to go by, it will be facaded (or fully demolished if they can get away with it). But if you have concerns, why not email the board of the Heritage Council of Victoria? Callum Fraser is a member, so he should be well placed to address any concerns ...

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SYmlb's picture

Well, that is partially the point though, Bilby. Without knowing the plans and what is exactly going to happen to this heritage structure, how can we pass judgement and comment on the entire project? All we have to go off is the press release from the developer in this article and a render showing one side of it.

Maybe people would take the heritage protection case more seriously if we would compile a case based on facts rather than assumptions and lambasting the "shiny" new tower above it. This is not the right approach, IMO.

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Ian Briggs's picture

The tower language is one that both unifies but also breaks down to reflect (NPI) the large variety of individual dwelling types, sizes and community spaces within. Yes, it’s a glass tower, but with grain and individualism rather than a continuous curtain glass wall.

The tower interfaces with the existing heritage building via a timber punctuation that has a direct dialogue with Fulton Lane opposite with its timber planters that articulate its façade.

The Heritage building is shallow, approx. 1/3 of the site, the remainder is recent additions. We are retaining the existing floor levels and as much of the existing internal cast iron columns as possible.
Hope this helps the discussion..

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SYmlb's picture

Thanks for some clarification, Ian. So the original part of Burbank will be retained while the newer extensions are demolished? This seems like a fair trade off in my mind. You can see a big setback from the street in that render so it's good to see that occur.

You can't blame a lot of us being skeptical considering some other developments in the past. I would still like to see the site plans before passing final judgement but this looks like a quality project. Best of luck with it.

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Bilby's picture

Does this mean, Ian, that there will be structural members running through the front third of the site (i.e. the retained heritage building) - otherwise it would be possible to retain all the cast iron columns internally? Also does any of the original trussed roof remain?

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Ian Briggs's picture

Thanks Symlb
Bilby, we are aiming to retain all the cast iron cols. When we inspected the roof space we discovered any existing structure that might have been there had been replaced and it's not a pretty sight! The tower comes to ground behind the retained heritage built form.

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Adam Ford's picture

Thanks Mark,
I appreciate the response. And I appreciate the difficulty as jounalists in striking a balance.
I guess my thing here is that the height limit issue certainly is known context, or is one of the handful of boxes I'd expect a journalist to be ticking in backgrounding their writing.

And surely it was at very least known this was a heritage building and that should have been mentioned.

But it's also a pain in the posterior looking this stuff up, and I imagine we're not all full-time paid and this is a website not The Age, etc.

And we don't expect as I say, advocacy journalism here. What would be really good, and where we're always very happy to help is if you flicked us an email at Melbourne Heritage when we might be able to help clarify - we're always happy to say if the building is listed, any other contextual issues we're aware of etc.

I'm happy to do something on heritage - what sort of word count? Although my last submission on fast rail is lingering in someone's in-tray somewhere too ...

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