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Federation Square

Peter Maltezos's picture

Federation Square

South-east corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street, Melbourne



Federation Square was one of the most ambitious construction projects ever undertaken in Australia, involving a large team of specialists.




• Project Design: Lab architecture studio + Bates Smart (1997 - 2003)


• Managing Contractor: Multiplex (1998 - 2003)

 Deck construction: 1996 - 1997 (Leighton Contractors)


The size of an entire city block, Federation Square is a living, breathing focus for Melbourne and Victorian community life positioned in the very centre of the city. It brings together a creative mix of attractions, including galleries, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, bars, two dedicated function centres, festivals, events and public open spaces embraced by some of the most stunning architecture in the world.


My own photos of Federation Square. smiley




One of the most photogenic sites in Melbourne allows for a plethora of postcards as seen below.




A concert scene below.




The DCM design that was rejected below.




The Website:


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Peter Maltezos's picture

Design Competition


The selection of architects for Federation Square was based on an open, international, two-stage design competition, which demanded the design of a new civic square capable of accommodating up to 20,000 people in an open-air amphitheatre. In addition, the project included cultural and commercial buildings, on a 3.8ha block to be built above the Jolimont railyards. The rationalisation of the Jolimont railyards, the demolition of the universally despised Gas and Fuel Towers, and the celebration of Australia's Centenary of Federation, provided the impetus for the completion of this important project.


There was a large response to the competition, 177 entries eventually being received, of which 41 were from overseas - including 18 from the UK and 6 from the USA.


Lab architecture studio, based in London at the time, produced one of the five plans shortlisted at the end of the first stage and, in order to proceed further with the competition, it formed a partnership with Bates Smart, one of Melbourne's most prominent firms of architects.


In July 1997, Lab architecture studio, in conjunction with Bates Smart, were awarded the design contract for Federation square. Lab architecture relocated their office to Melbourne and undertook the complex task of designing arguably Australia's most ambitious civic and cultural precinct.


Then and now


Above, Gas & Fuel corporation Towers (Princes Gate), completed in 1967 and demolished in 1997 to make way for Federation Square below.



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Peter Maltezos's picture

Federation Square


Edited by Clare Coney

Hardie Grant Books

First published in 2003


In print


Federation Square is a celebration of the building and architecture, and tells the story of how this corner block developed over the years – from an indigenous camp and meeting place to the city’s first morgue, then the site of the infamous Gas & Fuel towers to the Federation Square of today.

The book explains the complexities of the project,  such as the logistics of constructing a deck over the Jolimont Rail Yards to the intricate geometry of the facades and the technology of the labyrinth and the engineering feat  of the Atrium. It also takes you through the precincts, which include the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, ACMI: The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, SBS, the Square, the Atrium, St Paul’s Court and the Melbourne Visitor Centre, the Yarra Building and Transport, explaining the particular construction and design features of each.


A great book about a great place.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Koorie Heritage Trust Celebrates 30th Anniversary With A New Home

Saturday 19 September 2015

The Koorie Heritage Trust has celebrated its 30th anniversary by moving to a new location at Federation Square, allowing it to put more of its collection on public display than ever before.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins and Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley joined artists and Trust representatives to celebrate the anniversary and officially open the new premises, funded with a grant of $2.1 million by the Victorian Government.

At the heart of one of Victoria’s busiest meeting places, locals and visitors will be able to view more of the Trust’s art and cultural collection as well as browse a gift shop selling south east Australian Aboriginal art, craft and design.

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Steve Raider's picture

Look how the absence of the Visitor Centre opens it up. They should relocate it.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


New Screens To Light Up Federation Square

29 August 2017

Federation Square is set to become one of the world’s first outdoor digital art galleries.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren visited Federation Square today to announce a set of state-of-the-art digital experience screens – a wall of LEDs adorning the exterior of the Transport building.

Mobile interactive screens will feature in various locations around the Square, while improvements to free Wi-Fi are also planned.

The screens will replace the current big screen, giving locals and visitors at the Square a better viewing experience for the big arts, sports and cultural events.

Once complete, the new screens will feature a full schedule of programs – including works by students, cultural groups and local artists.

A temporary live stage and screen will be erected during construction to ensure the summer events program can continue, which includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Federation Square is a key part of why Victoria is the tourism and major events capital of Australia. The Square has welcomed more than 100 million visitors since opening in 2002.

Construction will begin in October.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Apple Global Flagship Store Coming To Federation Square

20 December 2017

Australia’s first ever Apple Global Flagship Store will open at Federation Square, delivering more public space, visitors and events to Victoria, and creating hundreds of local jobs.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren said the new flagship store would be a major drawcard for visitors and locals, breathing new life into one of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks.

The store will create nearly 500 square metres of new public space within Federation Square and make it easier for people to move between the Yarra River and Birrarung Marr.

Apple will bolster our creative offerings and events in Federation Square alongside the likes of the Koorie Heritage Trust, ACMI and the National Gallery of Victoria.

The store will replace the existing Yarra Building, creating extra open space in front of the big screen to watch the biggest and best events.

The Koorie Heritage Trust will relocate within the Alfred Deakin building at the Square, providing a larger central area and better public access.

Securing Apple is part of a broader strategy to reinvigorate Federation Square, following the recent announcement of new LED screens to create one of the world’s first outdoor digital art galleries.

Federation Square is expected to attract an extra two million people every year once the Global Flagship store opens its doors, having already welcomed more than 100 million visitors since opening in 2002.

The redevelopment will create more than 250 construction jobs and support more than 200 new ongoing jobs across the precinct once complete. Construction is set to begin early 2019 and the store will open in 2020.

Apple’s investment at Federation Square will be its first Global Flagship store in the southern hemisphere, the second outside the United States, and the fifth worldwide.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Apple is exploiting the power of its brand to claim an important part of our city

DECEMBER 20 2017 - 4:21PM James Lesh

How the Fed Square Apple store will look. Photo: Supplied

Five days before Christmas, news has dropped that a section of Federation Square has been given to Apple for its flagship Melbourne store. The Yarra Building will be demolished, and its tenants, including the Koorie Heritage Trust, relocated to make way for a globally familiar glass cube design. 

Ever since Apple's first Australian store opened on Sydney's George Street in 2008, Melburnians have been waiting for their turn. Rumours have swirled about Apple's agents scouting Bourke Street Mall and Collins Street for an appropriate site. In September 2016 news circulated about Apple's plans for Fed Square, and a year later these have turned out to be true.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Am I the only one who thinks this will be out of place?

The architectural integrity of Federation Square will be compromised!

The Yarra building fits in, this Apple Store doesn't, in my opinion a big mistake.no

The new Apple store, as it will appear from the air. Photo: VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT

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George D's picture

Not happy about this.

Yes, the Square operates under a trust and a weird quasi-commercial arrangement, but this is Melbourne's square. It belongs to all of us. It is the definitive public space in the city.

And it is especially disrespectful to Aboriginal Victorians, booting them out of the centre stage for a foreign occupant.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

I am conflicted about this development.

After decades of trying to open up the Yarra to the city for some inexplicable reason the square largely turned its back on the river with the Yarra Building having a crappy brick wall facing the river at ground level. Fixing these issues was going to cost $90 million and a masterplan was prepared a few years back:

They would have struggled to find the funding for this development so I guess they are happy to take Apples' money. Shifting the building back from the Yarra would also means that the Deakin Edge will be more prominent.

Like most people the problem I have with the development is the design of the new building. The Sandstone and Zinc fractal cladding is the key feature of the square and was incredibly expensive to build. I am not sure why they can not reuse the existing exterior cladding on the new building designed to suit apple's needs internally with more window area.

Instead of fitting in with the existing context Apple are imposing their minimalist aesthetic on the existing built environment.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Federation Square is exactly the right place for Melbourne's new Apple store

DECEMBER 21 2017 Donald Bates

The announcement that the Victorian government has approved the inclusion of an "Apple Global Flagship" store is an affirmation of the original intent and aspiration of Fed Square – to be the centre of action in Melbourne.

The Yarra Building, to be replaced by the new store, was not part of the original design competition. We added it to form a southern, activated edge to the plaza, to help enclose and shield it. However, the Yarra Building has always been an orphan; it was not designed for any specific tenancy or occupation. As such, it has remained the least-successful building in the precinct.

The new design for Apple will allow for a more direct, more logical connection of the activities of Fed Square down to Princes Walk and Federation Wharf. Fed Square as an operating entity is charged with supporting a large cultural and civic charter, made possible by funds generated by tenancy rentals, car parking and charges for commercial events.

Operating without fixed or substantial ongoing government support, Fed Square struggles to maintain its heavily utilised buildings and public spaces, while honouring its public charter. A major corporate tenant such as Apple will go a long way to re-balancing the operational impost on Fed Square.

The design of Apple Fed Square is necessarily of a different and distinct architectural vocabulary. We would abhor a faux-LAB Architecture design, replete with triangles and shifted geometries. The Foster Associates design is simple, pure and of its own aesthetic. Its success will lie in how it maximises the civic nature of Fed Square to form a tight connection with events and activities, bringing an engaging program of debates and discussions, as well as offering a new vista onto the Yarra River.

The incorporation of Apple Fed Square is entirely consistent with the original design inspiration of a 21st century public space, formed by the integration of the civic, the cultural and the commercial.

Donald L. Bates is director and co-founder of LAB Architecture Studio, which designed Federation Square.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Opposition to Federation Square Apple store grows as architects, planners query deal

DECEMBER 25 2017 - 5:11PM Clay Lucas

An online petition demanding the Andrews government dump a plan to let Apple tear down a building at Federation Square to build a "flagship" store has topped 16,000 signatures Monday morning, less than a week after the development's announcement.

And three associations representing architects, planners and landscape designers have written to Planning Minister Richard Wynne, objecting to the lack of transparency surrounding his approval for the Apple store.

On Wednesday, Tourism Minister John Eren told reporters: "Our Christmases have come all at once – Apple have decided to build their global flagship store right here in Melbourne at the famous Fed Square."

No detail of the financial deal the Andrews government made with Apple to allow them access to the city's most recognised public square has been released.

But the government says Victorians will not pay for the new store.

Approval was granted to Apple by Mr Wynne without any chance for public comment.

Around 2 million customers will visit the store each year, the government predicts.

The existing Yarra Building will be demolished and its tenants the Koorie Heritage Trust moved to another location within Federation Square.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Fed Square is not just a nickname - destroy it at our city's peril

DECEMBER 30 2017 - 11:45PM Dimity Reed

Apple's new store (left) proposed for Federation Square.  Photo: Apple

The apparent agreement to demolish a building in Federation Square and replace it with a building for the Apple Corporation brings up issues which we as a society need to dwell on. The first is a moral issue.

Federation Square was created and built to commemorate the making of a nation from a disparate collection of states and territories. This was no small achievement and it took extraordinary commitment – by some remarkable men to the idea of making a nation – for it to come to fruition.

2001 was the centenary of that achievement. Federation Square commemorates the making of Australia as a democratic, egalitarian society and its success is that it expresses that aspiration to perfection. We Australians of all beliefs, ages, origins and interests go there to meet friends, eat, see movies, hear concerts and explore exhibitions or simply to sit in the cool of the day in a deck chair.

We celebrate sporting wins together there and mourn losses. We see old years out and new years in. Fed Square enables us to be together or alone and in doing that it is a quiet achievement. It is a public place which celebrates and demonstrates the ideals which drove Federation. And we would be fools to misunderstand its role in Victorian life or its philosophical underpinning of how we became who we are.

The second issue is to do with architecture and urban design. Making public spaces is a tough art and rarely successful in the modern world. The Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Rockefeller Centre in New York and Federation Square are the stars in this small galaxy of major buildings edging public spaces.

When the winning design for Federation Square was announced it was generally derided because it didn't look like East Melbourne terraces, the Town Hall, Parliament House or the Windsor Hotel; in short, it bypassed our built history and looked to the new century. And, clever little Vegemites that we are, we learned to love it. And not only love it but use it as being central to our public social lives.

It was a major achievement to meet a complex brief involving the creation of some public institutions – the NGV Australia, the Australian Centre of the Moving Image, Deakin Edge and the Melbourne Visitor Centre – in a series of buildings around one major public space which dribbles off in places to become smaller spaces fronting bars and cafes.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Council challenges Spring St over Apple's Fed Square store

JANUARY 31 2018 - 10:59PM  Clay Lucas

Melbourne City Council is preparing to ask the state opposition and the Greens to axe the Andrews government’s contentious plan for an Apple "flagship" store at Federation Square.

The council is set to vote on Tuesday on a motion that would see it write to all Victorian upper house MPs asking them to revoke Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s approval of the Apple mega-store.

Labor does not control the upper house so a concerted push to derail the plan could succeed.

The Andrews government announced the Apple store before Christmas, triggering an angry community backlash.

Under the proposal for the shop, one of Federation Square’s original buildings would be demolished to make way for the global tech giant.

The government has been rattled by the protests but has refused to overturn the December decision.

The council is now seeking a design review and public consultation over the plan.


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Adrian's picture

So the Greens move to block this development was shot down in Parliament yesterday.

Arguments about Apple aside (and I do support his idea about better connecting the river) - I can't believe Donald Bates himself would encourage tearing down one of the existing buildings that integrates completely with the rest of the square in favor of a new building that is completed at odds with the rest of the development.

I still think this is a disgrace from an architectural point of view.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Refined Apple Store Designs Signal A New Era For Fed Square

20 July 2018

Refined designs for the Apple Global Flagship Store at Federation Square have been released today after being formally submitted to the Minister for Planning for consideration.

The Apple Global Flagship Store is part of the Andrews Labor Government’s refresh of Melbourne’s beloved Federation Square, which includes a new state-of-the-art LED big screen on the Transport Building, a $36.6 million revamp of ACMI, the new Melbourne Metro Train Station and more public space for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Following the approval of an Apple Global Flagship Store at Fed Square last December the Melbourne City Council, Federation Square Management and Apple have been involved in a series of workshops focused on design refinements to the original concept drawings of the store.

The designs complement Federation Square’s existing buildings and include a new roof that allows for solar power and a new solar shading design feature that enhances the energy efficiency of the building.

The project will open up more than 500 square metres of new public space, provide outdoor shading, better connect the square to the Yarra River, deliver more cultural events and boost visitor numbers.

Apple Federation Square will offer Today at Apple, a daily program of free events that will incorporate local creative talent to host workshops and experiences that showcase local tech, design, art and education communities, reinforcing Melbourne’s reputation as the nation’s cultural and tech capital.

In addition to the Today at Apple program, Federation Square’s arts and cultural tenants including ACMI, Koorie Heritage Trust and the NGV will have opportunities to collaborate with Apple on additional programming and events for visitors.

The redevelopment will create more than 250 construction jobs and support more than 200 new ongoing jobs across the precinct once complete. The Apple Global Flagship Store is expected to open in late 2020.

The Minister for Planning will now consult with Melbourne City Council, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect and Federation Square on the refined designs before handing down his final design endorsement.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Current projects at Federation Square include a wall of LEDs adorning the exterior of the Transport building and the new Metro station.

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Peter Maltezos's picture


Last-ditch heritage bid launched to keep Apple out of Fed Square
February 10, 2019 — 2.00pm Craig Butt

Campaigners have launched a last-ditch attempt to prevent an Apple store being built at Federation Square.

Our City, Our Square, a group opposed to the development, is urging Melburnians to call on the Heritage Council of Victoria to grant heritage protection to the Yarra Building, which is set to be demolished to make way for Apple's flagship Australian store.

While the building is less than two decades old, the group's spokesman, Brett de Hoedt, said that should not be a barrier to heritage listing.

"Heritage isn't just about being an old building," he said.

"Heritage is about the meaning of the building or place, and Federation Square, more than any other place across the state, means more to more people more often."

The group gathered at Federation Square on Sunday morning to launch a tongue-in-cheek crowdfunding campaign to raise $40 million to outbid Apple's offer for the site.

"The idea behind this audacious plan is to raise enough money to buy this building back from Apple, because essentially the Victorian government has sold it to Apple," Mr de Hoedt said.

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