Righting a Swanston Street wrong

It looks increasingly likely that one of a pack of underwhelming buildings which front Swanston Street in Carlton will undergo an exterior rejuvenation shortly. Completed during 2004, Arrow on Swanston at 470-496 Swanston Street is defined by its precast exterior, but not necessarily for long.

Client Livingsprings Pty Ltd has enlisted Melbourne architecture and urban planning firm Particular to devise a refurbishment & addition works program that will see new life given to the drab structure. City of Melbourne have given notice to approve the project in recent weeks, advancing the multi-million dollar project closer to reality​.

Expected rooftop loft suites extension. Image courtesy Particular

Particular list the project on their website as commencing shortly, with the existing 3.5 star serviced apartment and student accommodation building expected to receive a decidedly golden upgrade. Masses of vertical fins will be applied over the facade along with new finishes to balconies and windows which will bring a higher degree of articulation to the existing building's exterior.

Up high a rooftop loft suite extension will see six additional gold-clad dwellings added, while the current mid-building car park entry point off Swanston Street will be relocated to the southern boundary via a laneway.

While the homogenous blob that is the current structure has come in for attention, it's at street level where Particular's revised 470-496 Swanston Street design gains another facet.

A new street level interface. Image courtesy Particular

Renders sourced via Particular show a much softer presentation to Swanston Street with timber, greenery and gold highlights set to replace precast and reflective glass which offers little by way of interaction from Swanston Street. An alfresco area and stone sidewalk are included within the project renders, as is a lobby set back from Swanston Street, which aids in decluttering the building's street level interface.

Particular also mention a new niche retail and food precinct located along the base of 470-496 Swanston Street, with two separate applications presented to City of Melbourne for assessment. Combined they seek to provide a mixture or licensed restaurants and retail tenancies, plus a ground/basement function centre.


Book-ended by RMIT and Melbourne University, Carlton's stretch of Swanston Street could have easily become a showcase for amazing contemporary, design as the majority of buildings developed along the strip were done so in the last decade. Rather, it has become a horrible homage to precast concrete and cheap student digs with a distinct lack of built form/street level character.

Fender Katsalidis' Astorial aside, the list of substandard residential buildings is long. The initial Arrow on Swanston is joined by Apartments Uropa, Brookes Gillespie House, Eastern Precinct, Micasa 8, Swanston Student Complex and the more recently Tune Hotel.

Avert your eyes

The new Arrow on Swanston looks to be a step in the right direction toward a more dynamic, engaging streetscape and built form outcome. Unfortunately much of the rest of Swanston Street in this area has been permanently scarred by the ill-though-out design and planning decisions of the past.

Still one resurrection is better than none.


Bilby's picture

I don't see anyone busting you up for being too 'negative' here, Mark! The exterior renovation to this building looks a lot like the superficial treatments applied to apartment buildings along Lygon Street, Brunswick East. Joulia comes to mind:

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Peter Maltezos's picture

I never avert my eyes from Micasa 8, aside from Astorial, easily the best new building on the Carlton stretch of Swanston Street.

The others listed I agree are not that good at all.

I collect, therefore I am.

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Bilby's picture

You can't avert your eyes from Micasa 8 because it's so dominating, Peter! The poor old Canadian Hotel is practically squashed under its uncompromising concrete bulk.

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Mark Baljak's picture

In the degrees of architectural effort and quality versus personal opinion, I'd suggest superficial treatment is better than no treatment

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Adrian's picture

^^ Hear hear ..

That entire row of buildings on Swanston St are a pre-cast abomination of a nightmare ..

Anything would be better than how it is now ...

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Bilby's picture

I don't know, it makes me uneasy. I prefer a an honest, ugly building to a bad building with tacked on bling. These are exactly the kind of sites that we should be demolishing while the building boom is on, and replacing with well designed, high quality towers.

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