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Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine

Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine

The second instalment in's Southbank by Beulah series highlights UN Studio and COX Architecture's entry dubbed "The Green Spine" which celebrates and contributes to Melbourne's parklands and gardens.

The collaborative design proposal aims to establish the site as a new destination within Southbank, which forms part of the linear part network being delivered via the Southbank Boulevard project, connecting the Botanical Gardens with the Yarra River.

The project is both characterised and organised around the ‘Green Spine’ of vertically networked of cascading platforms, terraces and verandas, which begin at street level and wind their way up the tower's extremities.

Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine
To maximise solar permeability to City Road, the scheme is split into two towers. Image: UN Studio and COX Architecture

COX Architecture and UN Studio’s distinct design considers nature, culture and well-being within the urban framework and is the product of the two firms’ collaborative, conceptual thinking of future living.

In addition to being fully integrated within the existing Melbourne network of cultural, entertainment, leisure and commercial venues on offer, with its variety of programmes and connectivities, the design further proposes a mixed-use building that is a city in itself.

The Green Spine is conceived as an environmental tool, adding a distinctly contemporary, Australian vernacular and striking presence to Melbourne’s skyline.

The Green Spine is created by splitting a single mass of the planning envelope to create two separate towers of varying height, revealing the "almost geological strata of their core layers as they rise above a light-filled canyon."

The towers that result on either side benefit from city views, access to daylight, strong permeability and vastly improved contextual links. The orientation of the Green Spine enables an extension of the public realm from the podium, sweeping up the towers, oriented towards the CBD and the Botanical Gardens at the top of the towers.

A host of programmes, including recreation, retail, offices, residential, hotel and exhibition spaces are integrated into the vertically stepped public infrastructure – an infrastructure that is formed by indoor-outdoor spatial frames that embed nature, public space and culture.

On a local level, the aim of the design is to provide porousness at street level, whilst simultaneously connecting the upper floors with the streetscape by expanding the public realm.

Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine
The Green Spine as viewed from City Road & Southbank Boulevard. Image: UN Studio and COX

What they say:

What I thought was so great about the location is that on one hand it is closely related to the botanical garden and inner city and will be seen from so many parts of the city, but also that it so nicely connects to all this liveliness of Melbourne.

- Ben van Berkel, Founder UN Studio

Everywhere really, you continuously see this green, and it's a lively green - it twists around.

- Caroline Bos, Co-Founder UN Studio

Through the exploration of a series of massing forms, we came to the realisation that a singular tower form was going to be a serious impediment on the precinct and the connections from Southbank to the CBD.

So we evolved the design to look at the idea of two towers, with a great separation between those two towers, creating a permeability of light and views through the Southbank precinct.

- Pete Sullivan, Director COX   

The other key component to this is the way we integrate the Southbank Boulevard and the importance, I think, within this precinct creating amenity for the area is key.

- Phillip Rowe, Director COX


  • Value: AUD 2 billion
  • GFA/ Area: 253,485 sqm
  • Height: 360m + 246m


  • Future City, London: Cultural Placemaking
  • Studio Drift, Amsterdam: Lead Artist
  • Atelier 10, Melbourne: Sustainability and Well-being
  • Grant Associates: Landscape Architect
  • GTA Consultants: Traffic & Accessibility 
  • ARUP, Melbourne: Engineering

The winning design for the “Southbank by Beulah” competition will be announced on August 8th, 2018.

Southbank by Beulah, UNStudio, Green Spine from UNStudio on Vimeo.

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Discussion (12 comments)

johnproctor's picture

Do you have a simple explanation on the strategy to manage/avoid the 18:1 plot ratio development limits on this site?

Mark Baljak's picture

Something like the Floor Area Uplift versus sizeable Public Benefit?

theboynoodle's picture

This one is my favorite, looks wise, based on the renders published so far... though that view from the North bank is something of a fantasy given that nothing can be built much taller than Eureka and A108. It won't look quite as good after the pan-ops chop.

Anton Lawrence's picture

You are assuming a fair bit re PANS-OPS........

Adrian's picture

TBN - PAN-OPS no longer applies here at least in the form that limited Australia 108 to 319m. The offending approach at Essendon Airport was removed which raised PAN-OPS to a new unknown (but much higher) level - which allowed Crown QB to go heigher. A RTCC limit has been imposed instead with that new height but there is nothing to say this can't be raised by Airservices Australia.

Meanwhile - there is a lot to like about this proposal the podium interaction with the street level is *excellent* and the twisting shape well thought out. The major drawback being it will add a very boxy shape to the skyline from long distance where the building twist & detail can't be seen.

theboynoodle's picture

Re. Pan Ops

Thanks. I knew it had been raised from the limit that impacted A108, but I thought that the Crown proposal was as high as would be allowed and that, therefore, 360 was much too ambitious.

Fair enough if it might be possible.

Nicholas Harrison's picture

They are using every possible type of Public Benefit to get the uplift.

- Publicly accessible open areas on site
- Publicly accessible enclosed areas within proposed building
- Social housing within proposed building
- Competitive design process for design of proposed building
- Commercial office use on site or within proposed building

The more difficult problem is how they meet the mandatory setbacks of 5m from all of the boundaries and 10m from the adjoining Freshwater Place towers and still get a floorplate of more than 1800sqm.

elev8's picture

I just think that this proposal is really well integrated within its immediate vicinity. Especially the way that the green spine is a visual and somewhat practical extension of the greening of southbank boulevard. The podium on this proposal is much more sympathetic to the street and not so bulky - more human scale. The twisting forms certainly add a landmark quality and I particularly like the way the windows start inset from the base and work up to an articulated resolution. The two tower approach is also why this is my favourite - provides light and sightlines through the middle. It's elegant, somewhat timeless, very contemporary and a nice visual relief from the other large towers around it that are more curved or angled. Adds two more towers to the forest and I also like how it helps step the height with the lower tower on the west near Prima.

hotlava's picture

Pick of the bunch as a landmark.

Adam Ford's picture

Easily the best of the bunch, but why do architects insist on creating a sprawling undesigned mess at ground level on these things/

theboynoodle's picture

It’ll be interesting to see if these newfangled fancy podiums are successful. Aside from this site, there are ‘things’ going on at the likes of Westside Place that are a far cry from the generally awful Melbourne standard.

Say what you like about the podium ideas in these proposals, at least none of them went with a nine level black box full of cars.

Rohan Storey's picture

My first thoughts are that gardens at the top levels will be unlikely given the winds up there - or are they glasses in wintergardens ?; and the gardens at the podium levels face south so that’ll only get sun in mid summer - I suppose they can find things that will grow in those conditions ?

And yes where’s the mandatory 5m setback ? The tallest tower seems to be straight up from the corner. I suppose I could live with that given that city road is already a canyon, though all the other towers have a setback; this would need to be wind tested thoroughally to make sure that east facing wall doesn’t result in huge gusts at street level, same for the gap between the towers.


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