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A rather Nouvel approach: 383 La Trobe Street designed to impress

Lodged for planning assessment last month, Sterling Global's intended $700 million tower set over a 2,850 square metre site at 383 La Trobe Street is poised to become a new visual marker to the CBD's north. At 70 levels the proposed mixed-use development is the work of renowned international architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel with local practice Architectus installed as executive architect.

Urban Melbourne recently sat down with Sterling Global’s Head of Investment and Development, Mark van Miltenburg, for a detailed briefing on the project which shapes as being something very unique for Melbourne.

At 242 metres above street level, 383 La Trobe Street has been designed to accommodate 488 residences and a 196-room premium hotel which Sterling Global expect to retain post the project's completion.

With over $1.5 billion worth of development in play, Sterling Global are well positioned to deliver the stand-out project under their own capabilities. Asked if the developer was open to a joint venture for 383 La Trobe Street, Mark van Miltenburg stated Sterling Global is open to the possibility of a partnership, but are quite comfortable in solely delivering the project.

The tall-slender form of the tower. Image: Sterling Global & Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Sterling Global's intention was to bring a degree of difference to the project, setting it apart from many current CBD projects that the developer believes are quite generic in what they bring to the public realm. Thus Ateliers Jean Nouvel were appointed after a competitive design process, creating a project that in many ways is unique to Melbourne.

Dubbed "The Tower of Seven Colors," the moniker refers to the building's response to its context, adopting the visual characteristics of its neighbours via different colours to its four elevations.

The primary northern facade will be coloured red, drawing on the red brick heritage wall of the Royal Mint and Hellenic Museum, the eastern facade will be golden, reflecting the rising morning sun on Melbourne's streetscapes and the west facade will be lined with green in a nod to the nearby Flagstaff Gardens.

An etched silver facade to the south ties the sky to the tower via its crystalline summit.

The Tower of seven colors has roots. It knows where it is. It is a friendly tower that likes and respects its neighbors: the Hellenic Museum in the Royal Mint, Flagstaff Park, the Republic Tower. It is part of this family. One doesn’t choose one’s parents or one’s cousins, but there they are.

Is it because the tower was born right next door to the wall of the museum that it is dressed in this warm mat brick color through which white, green and blue highlights shine?

Is it out of friendship with the Republic Tower that the tower adopts and shelters between its great feet giant screens that are permanently inhabited by dynamic images, an ideal complement to its neighbor’s own art space? Is it to touch the sky, or marry it, that the tower’s summit develops reflections and transparencies in a crystalline and deliberate ambiguity?

Ateliers Jean Nouvel

The facade is composed of a 500mm deep grid-like outer structure of various densities and scales, with a juxtaposition of order and chaos, much like Melbourne's Hoddle Grid. This depth allows for a further articulation of colour which changes as you move around the tower.

This chameleon-like effect is illustrated bellow.

It is at ground level where 383 La Trobe Street truly distinguishes itself.

The proposal looks to introduce a highly active ground plane which ties into Victoria University's adjoining development program at its city campus. The spacious internal laneway which bisects the site is in typical Nouvel fashion, featuring a mass of bright digital surfaces and ever changing digital artwork and large volumes.

Within these grand spaces there are galleries, a bar, restaurants, retail spaces, video arcades and a public book exchange. Mark van Miltenburg explains that the intent was always to bring a new level of public activation to the lower levels of the tower, providing a heavy level of public benefit, while allowing the evolving digital displays to cater for different public events such as White Night Melbourne.

This heightened public benefit aspect of the design which sees 30% of the site area allocated to public space is also expecting to counter recent restrictive plot ratios imposed across Melbourne's CBD. 383 La Trobe Street maintains a plot ratio of 29.1:1 which exceeds the interim controls of Amendment C262 at 24:1.

Sterling Global are hoping the altogether unique design aspects of 383 La Trobe Street will see a plot ratio exemption granted.

The tower wants to be welcoming and alive. Behind its great urban gate, passageways branch out and connect to the main streets of the neighborhood, creating a mini-neighborhood of laneways and covered porches, all under laid by a bluestone floor that extends outward into different variations of ceramic brick through all the spaces it crosses including the lobby bar of the hotel, which faces the heritage wall, and the grand entrances to the apartments and the restaurant.

This urbanity is particularly made to measure in the long, tall video space that terminates in a street library that reads as an extension of the heritage wall. The urban attraction of this place is linked to its singularity, to its magnetic charm that will be as important for the residents of the tower as for the Melburnians who will come here again and again.

Ateliers Jean Nouvel
383 LaTrobe Street activated ground plane. Image: Sterling Global & Ateliers Jean Nouvel

The development will also include four sky gardens designed by Oculus, including one which will be accessible to the public, another element common in Nouvel tower designs. These provide areas of respite for residents and further ground the tower within its context, reinforcing its relationship with Flagstaff Gardens.

All things going to plan, Mark van Miltenburg expects 383 La Trobe Street to grace the skyline in four to five years time, post its planning and apartment sales campaign.

1 comment

3000's picture

No complaints from me for a change, this is what I like to see at street level. Developers and the firms they work with can learn a lot here.

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