North Wharf - A new urban space

North Wharf - A new urban space
Mark BaljakJuly 31, 2013

Another office block in Docklands you say? Same old, same old!

Well not quite. Site developer Asset1 has in recent days been kind enough to advance to a handful of high quality renders for their recently approved development at North Wharf spanning 731-739 Flinders Street, Docklands. Consider initially the media release, excerpts of which are provided below

Asset 1 is commencing a new wave of revitalization and refurbishment for their North Bank Precinct. As Landlord of the largest expanse of Yarra River fronting property, these plans will see a gust of fresh air blown into this significant Melbourne precinct. Plans are underway to create a vibrant new cultural and trade hub across the 11.7 acres of Asset 1 domain, including the World Trade, North Wharf and other key areas of the precinct.

Working collaboratively Cox architects, master-planners and under the supervision of Cox Principal, Patrick Ness, Asset 1 will look to implement a five year vision for this dynamic new expansion. This will include a trade square, trade hub, a cultural precinct, a retail precinct and a green boulevard. The development of North Wharf will also be undertaken and this will flow onto The Jim Stynes Bridge; giving complete connectivity to the prime Yarra River real estate.

This week, Planning Minister Matthew Guy granted a panning permit for North Wharf, anchored by a new 13 story office tower, comprising 33,427 square meters of office space, at 731 – 739 Flinders Street, Docklands. The North Wharf project will also include commercial office towers, the restoration of the historic old Mission to Seafarers and the Seafarers Rest Park, while introducing, retail, cafes and an art gallery. The historic crane will remain.The $90 million development of the North Wharf is the last piece of undeveloped land and is a lynch pin between Melbourne’s CBD, Docklands and the Yarra River.

North Wharf - A new urban space

So what makes North Wharf exceptional?

The vast majority of waterfront development in Docklands to date has followed the same formula; large open promenades dividing water and built form which in theory is fine, allowing light penetration and sight lines to be maximised. The issue arises when the promenade abutts said built form, generally by way of a towers podium; the urban realm at times seems an afterthought. I'd contend not enough has been done to soften the nexus between urban space and built form which leads to a monotonous, somewhat harsh experience.

Looking at the provided North Wharf images, is seems as if the urban spaces have been incorporated first with the commercial aspect an afterthought. Don't get me wrong , the commercial tower designed by Cox Architects is of a high quality yet the spaces fronting the Yarra are above and beyond. It certainly helps that the historic Goods Shed No. 5 and the 1948 crane have been incorporated, providing points of interest and history that vast tracks of Docklands waterfront no longer posses.

Oculus Landscape Archtecture have produced a mighty result by way of incorporating liberal amounts of greenery into the promenade and park which will link the Yarra to the Mission to Seafarers building and beyond, whilst also acting as a connection point for a number of pedestrian links including the currently under construction Jim Stynes Bridge. The narrow promenade coupled with the western tree plantings within close proximity to the waterfront gives the impression of an intimate, relaxing environment heavily skewed toward a green experience; certainly not applicable to many other parts of Docklands.

Much has been done to beautify the northern banks of the Yarra in recent years with North Wharf providing the last and most impressive link in this process. The only negative aspect one could conjure is that when realised, North Wharf will further shine the spotlight on the adjoining, abysmally outdated car park fronting both Flinders Street and Siddeley Street. In weeks to come Laurence Dragomir aka Blockhead might just provide a number of novel retrofit green facade solutions for the car park - stay tuned.


All images ©, and many thanks to Asset1

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak was a co-founder of He passed away on Thursday 8th of November 2018 after a battle with cancer. He was 37. Mark was a keen traveller, having visited all six permanently-inhabited continents and had a love of craft beer. One of his biggest passions was observing the change that has occurred in Melbourne over the past two decades. In that time he built an enormous library of photos, all taken by him, which tracked the progress of construction on building sites from across metropolitan Melbourne.

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