Architects appointed to redesign Melbourne Arts Precinct Public Realm

Architects appointed to redesign Melbourne Arts Precinct Public Realm
Laurence DragomirFebruary 20, 2019

Local architects HASSELL and New York’s SO-IL, have been appointed to lead a local and international team to design the public realm component of the Melbourne Arts Precinct redevelopment.

The transformative project will introduce 18,000 sqm of new and renewed open public space in the densely populated Southbank via the creation of an elevated inner-city park and new pedestrian connections into and throughout the area. This extensive new pedestrian network will allow visitors to the precinct while seamlessly connecting Southbank and the Yarra with Melbourne’s iconic cultural institutions.

The winning bid puts a strong focus on nature and will include seasonal gardens by world-renowned horticulturalists Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough, who transformed London’s Barbican Centre.

The State Government recognises the Arts Centre Precinct redevelopment as a "once-in-a-generation project"  which it says will reshape Melbourne’s arts scene and create substantial new outdoor public space, adding to the transformation of Southbank Boulevard and Dodds Street.

To date,the State Government has invested $208 million over two years to complete the first phase of the project, which will encompasses planning and will enable the NGV and Arts Centre Melbourne to begin raising philanthropic funds for the revitalisation.

Architects appointed to redesign Melbourne Arts Precinct Public Realm
Concept Image: HASSELL

According to the design partnership, the Arts Centre Precinct's public realm represents a rare opportunity to help shape how Melburnians and millions of international visitors experience the Arts Precinct’s cultural offering as well as this part of the city on a daily basis. 

The winning design puts a strong focus on nature. It will include ever-changing seasonal gardens by world-renowned horticulturalists Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough (UK), who transformed London’s brutalist-style Barbican Centre and London Olympic Parklands.

The new public realm forms a key part of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project - first announced in June 2018. The city-changing project also includes the refurbishment of  Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building, the new NGV Contemporary, and a new creative hub at 1 City Road.

HASSELL is currently working on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project alongside Rogers Stirk Harbor and Weston Williamson, in addition to major new public spaces in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

SO-IL (Solid Objects Idenburg Liu) is based in Brooklyn, has previously worked with New York’s MoMA and Frieze Art Fair and is currently creating a new waterfront in Paris.

HASSELL and SO–IL previously collaborated on the shortlisted design for Adelaide Contemporary Art Gallery. 

The announcement of the public realm design team, follows last year's appointment of NH Architecture and Norway’s Snøhetta to commence design work on the Theatres Building revamp.

ARM were responsible for the design of the master plan for the Arts Precinct Transformation.

What they say...

“The objective of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Masterplan is to improve the functional aspects of the existing institutions, incorporate the two new facilities, and invigorate and maximize the public experience in this exciting new chapter of the precinct. It’s about making it work and making it memorable – a new place people want to go."

- Ben Duckworth (HASSELL) and Jing Liu (SO–IL) 


"This is an opportunity that can only be realised when the masterplan brings all aspects of the site together - past, present and future - under one strong and connected vision. We will explore our deep and meaningful connection to nature by immersing the cultural precinct in dynamic and ever-changing gardens, creating a contemporary civic space that is a destination and attraction in its own right.”

- Design Director for Public Realm, Jon Hazelwood (HASSELL) 


“This project will reshape Melbourne’s cultural and creative precinct, bringing more people than ever into a fantastic new public space and improving access to everything that the Arts Centre and the NGV have to offer.

The new public open space will draw people into the heart of the rejuvenated Sturt Street Arts precinct which continues to grow as the home to over 40 different arts and cultural organisations and performance spaces “ 

- Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries


“This new public space will connect more than 20 galleries and theatres in the area as well as creating green open space for residents and visitors alike.”  

- Gavin Jennings, Minister for Priority Precincts


“This project will bring the colour, creativity and activity that happens within our galleries and theatres outside for all to enjoy – no tickets required.” 

- Daniel Andrews, Victorian Premier

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.

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