No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal

No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal
No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal

UK-based student accommodation provider Scape’s plans for a student accommodation tower fronting Swanston Street on the former Carlton United Brewery site failed to receive the support of City of Melbourne (CoM) at last month's Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee meeting.

This follows the latest design iteration which had an almost identical design expression to Swanston Street, but differed in other aspects including girth. During the redesign the tower has also been reduced by 8 storeys.

No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal
Before and after of the two schemes. Images: DCM

Chief amongst CoM’s concerns for the Denton Corker Marshall-designed 22-storey tower was lack of a suitable transition between the high-rise built form of the Melbourne CBD and the lower built form of Carlton, in addition to a perceived lack of consideration for the adjacent heritage buildings.

CoM has also expressed concern that Scape’s proposal would negatively impact the public realm and will lead to an unsuitable built form and urban design outcome on Swanston Street, due from its sheer breadth to the street.

The revised design adopts a similar modular, monolithic and monotone aesthetic to Scape’s first Melbourne project on Swanston Street opposite RMIT, whereas the CUB proposal is more of a slab form. CoM’s urban design team recommends a more vertical, granular approach to the arrangement of the massing, in lieu of the current slab configuration, citing Urban Nest’s 599 Swanston Street as an exemplar.

No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal
599-605 Swanston Street was cited as a design exemplar. Image: Hayball

The massing of the overall form remains challenging in the Swanston Street context, with the appearance of a monolithic, employing coloured finishes and applied sunshading hoods over a broad elevation of some 70m in length (equivalent to 10-11 traditional shop fronts within the retail core).

Whilst the sky garden is a positive inclusion to provide some relief, we require further depth and massing articulation of this surface in lieu of reliance on surface effects. We have a similar critique of the upper component of the form, which appears intentionally flat with flush windows reinforcing the sense of a monolithic block.

Whilst this technique has been deployed in more slender built form by DCM, its application in this broad slab-like form is highly problematic, and lacks any relationship to built form within its surrounding Swanston Street context.

The recently approved and under construction 599 Swanston Street offers a helpful counterpoint, where Hayball and Urban Nest worked closely with CoM to develop a clustered vertical form in order to offset a similar proportioned slab envelope, in conjunction with a tactile, brick base element which responded to the scale of the retained corner heritage form.

We would strongly recommend a more vertical, granular approach to the arrangement of this considerable mass, in lieu of the current slab arrangement.

- City of Melbourne's Urban Design Team via Future (Planning) Committee Report

Scape has big plans for Melbourne with a further tower – set to be the tallest student accommodation building in the world - on Franklin Street, also currently at planning.

The student accommodation provider also has air rights above the new State Library Station entry on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston Streets, when it is completed in 8 years, after negotiating an outcome with the MMRA to develop an Over Site Development.

No Great (E)Scape for CUB Proposal
Scape's failed 212-222 La Trobe Street plus 97 Franklin Street. Images: DCM

The Franklin Street proposal also wasn't received favourably by the City of Melbourne, who cited similar concerns over facade articulation and monotony as concerns for the 60-storey tower which was also designed by DCM.

Scape's CUB proposal is set for a VCAT hearing following the Minister's failure to make a decision in the prescribed period.

Laurence Dragomir

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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Denton Corker Marshall Student accommodation Scape Student Living

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Mark Baljak's picture
Both seem to be very average externally. I guess DCM can only do so much within a given budget?
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