Addressing Elizabeth Street: Melbourne Central (part one)

11 years after the ARM designed refurbishment works for centre owners GPT / Lend Lease were completed, the landscape of the northern quadrant of the Melbourne CBD has changed significantly. Cranes and construction currently dominate the northern reaches of Elizabeth Street as a number of skyscrapers begin their skyward ascent.

Forest of towers to come

One element of the refurbished Melbourne Central that bothered me when it reopened and continues to do so is the Elizabeth / La Trobe Street corner. This has always been a prominent corner site but has become even moreso as the city evolves. I consider it to be an underwhelming entry to the centre and station environment below and believe it could offer more.

With that in mind, I've done a quick study at what a reconfigured corner might look like, taking into account the C262 planning controls.

Following a quick analysis of the site area and applying a plot ratio of 24:1 as per the interim controls we are left with 262,940sqm which can be developed. This is illustrated in the diagram below.

Site area and plot ratio diagram

Any additional high-rise development of considerable size on the Melbourne Central site should be located away from Swanston and closer to Elizabeth Street. Doing so reduces the potential for overshadowing to the State Library forecourt.

Additionally locating it along the northern edge allows for generous exposure to natural daylight to apartments. Adding apartments to the mix of programme also further develops the concept of Melbourne Central as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) which forms part of a much broader discussion relating to what shopping centres are and the potential for what they could be.

I believe they can work harder and function as more than just retail destinations but thriving neighbourhoods in their own right.

In investigating the concept of the potential for a residential tower on the site I was interested in the opportunities it may present in also helping to facilitate an improved street condition and corner address for the centre. As the suite of diagrams below illustrates, the first move was to provide a 40 metre high podium for the existing Melbourne Central Office Tower and the new residential tower.

I wanted to retain the internal laneway condition and further develop it so it slices through the full height of the podium and would have various uses interfacing with it.

Process diagram

The rationale behind the tower foot print and core location was to draw on the geometry of the office tower to maximise northern exposure, minimise southern outlook. Further to this, due to the floorplate geometry, views are directed away from the office tower and vice-versa. Locating the core to the south ensures no overlooking from the office tower into any apartments.

The tower would rise 160 metres above the 40 metre podium with a tapered roof form which creates a series of terraces to the east but also ensures no overshadowing of the State Library forecourt. The angle of the slope matches that of the Melbourne Central Office tower drawing on the form and geometry - a shared DNA.

The podium would be expressed as two elements of a consistent and coherent volume but would be articulated differently, reflecting the difference in programme but also the two different conditions that they interface with.

Atop this podium is green open space shared by both towers and the centre. The office tower would be reconfigured so that further food and beverage would spill out onto this space. The loss of office space would be replaced within the podium which would increase the overall floor area of the tower.

Stay tuned as I'll be looking to develop this a bit more in the coming weeks beyond just some simple massing and into something resembling an architectural proposition.


johnproctor's picture

nice one Laurence.

it is a pretty shocking external treatment all around there and as you rightly point out could be considered underdevloped.

you might be interested to head up to the GPT (Centre owners/managers) offices there at some point. They've built a shared cafe on their office level which caters for the entire building. Its a commercial set up but has great views and quite a "open/green/shared space" feel about it.

look forward to the future articles.

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Aussie Steve's picture

The problem with how Melbourne Central presents itself to Elizabeth Street, is that the latest development, bastardised what was a great open space plaza area, similar to Collins Place, which, albeit, was a bit windswept, was one cohesive design and married into the overall development, which isn't what we have currently. The current lower level podium is atrocious! That is more of an issue than advocating for another high rise to solve the lower level problems.

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Adam Ford's picture

All that's true, but the effectively arcaded laneways they created around the base of the tower are BRILLIANT and always brimming with life. But putting retail right up to that corner really hobbled the potential for the station entrance.

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Aussie Steve's picture

I agree Adam, the laneways are great, but the architecture, and the way the 1990s architecture has now been butchered, is awful. What needs to happen now, is the total removal of the space=frame structure, and the building of a proper podium for the wonderful office tower, that creates an open entry to the station and laneways with great active frontages on all street fronts.

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