Southbank by Beulah: OMA & Conrad Gargett - The Base

Southbank by Beulah: OMA & Conrad Gargett - The Base
Southbank by Beulah: OMA & Conrad Gargett - The Base

As's series looking at each entry in the "Southbank by Beulah" design competition draws to a close, the announcement of the winning design is expected to be imminent.

With that in mind let's take a look at OMA and Conrad Gargett's entry - The Base. As the name suggests the design has avoided the temptation of other designs in providing the tower with a crowning feature, instead opting to focus attention at its base.

According to the architects, The Base has been designed to function as a 24/7 mixed-use vertical city accommodating cultural, commercial, educational and social programmes supported by retail, and food and beverage tenancies. 

The Base follows the the site footprint and then tapers inwards to a slab 100m above the city. Within this volume, different programs are distributed strategically to create dynamic vertical movement, and are rendered distinguishable from both inside and outside through façade elements.

Open arches at street level, provide a contemporary re-interpretation of Melbourne's arcades, inviting the public into a sheltered extension of both the street life surrounding the building, and of Melbourne itself.

The Base of the building is a 24/7 mixed-use vertical city in which many cultural, commercial, educational and social program elements have their unique spot bound together by the more generic program of retail and food & beverage. In this vertical city, there are highways of movement through the large express escalators, shortcuts by elevators, and laneways to wander on through the normal escalators, stairs, and voids. The planning of the Base builds on the principle of large scale public invitation and open arcades after which a vertical wonderland of discovery awaits. It is a vertical sheltered extension of both the streetscape surrounding the building, and Melbourne itself.

The Base is the foundation of the project, giving it its 24/7 livelihood. It represents the urban experiment Melbourne is looking for – an urban living lab. We have deployed a strategy to stretch the boundaries of current policies in the Base for the benefit of the public good. The Base starts as the site and tapers back to a slab 100m above the city. In this tapered volume, the different program elements, clearly readable behind the facade, are distributed strategically to create large vertical movement.


Southbank by Beulah: OMA & Conrad Gargett - The Base
The Base would rise to a height of 345m. Image: OMA + Conrad Gargett

The Base also includes the BMW Experience Centre which has been positioned on the corner of Southbank and City Road to mark the corner and due to its high visibility.

Although elevated above the ground to fit within the Base concept of providing a permeable and public street level, the BMW Experience Centre boasts an iconic feature – a cylindrical glass car lift – piercing through the ground and connecting the 1400 sqm basement storage and the mezzanine experience.

As one of the “special volumes” in the design team's concept, the experience centre is clad in a special façade – a dichroic glazing in the iconic BMW blue shade. The BMW logo appears in the moving lift platform that shuttles between basement and mezzanine levels. 

Moving upwards, the tower has been divided into three sections - office, hotel and residential. The office block comprises a variety of flexible floorplates that range between 1800-2200sqm  and sits right above the Base so that a significant number of lift banks are no longer required for the vertical transport in the hotel and apartments. The floor plates provide views of Southbank and City Road and include green areas on each floor on the corners facing the east and west ends which also act as visual buffers to future development at Hanover House.

The hotel block sits just above the office block and is the first upper tower programmatic segment twisting around the core. It consists of 17 floors including two amenity levels at the top and bottom of the block.

Two amenity levels at the top and bottom of the hotel block offer a variety of wellness, food and beverage, and recreational facilities, and the lower one also houses the check-in. Hotel guests can arrive at the drop off at ground level, be quickly escorted to the hotel lift bank in the central core in order to get to the calm and spacious atmosphere of the lower amenities/sky lobby for checking in. 

The residential portion of the tower has been strategically located at the top to maximise outlook and natural daylight. The gentle twist at the top of the residential component not only provides the tower with an iconic and elegant silhouette but also enhances the quality of the residences with views towards Port Philip Bay and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The residential segment of the tower boasts particularly efficient floorplates due to the compact core layout – the efficiency of this part of the tower is 81%. Smaller units are fitted with winter gardens as extra amenity and daylight.

In response to the ambitious brief, the residential component is complemented by amenities ranging from fine dining, private party rooms, VIP movie theater, fitness, recreation, a wellness center, creche, gardens, and a pool at the base of the residential block.

An iconic feature for the entire tower, the side cuts in the residential block reveal double curved facades through the two glazed triangular skylights above the swimming pool and the gardens in the bottom amenity level. 

Southbank by Beulah: OMA & Conrad Gargett - The Base
The Base at street level with its sweeping arches. Image: OMA + Conrad Gargett


  • Value: AUD 2 billion
  • GFA/ Area: 255,000 sqm
  • Height: 345m


  • Engineering Consultant:  ARUP
  • Traffic Engineer: AECOM
  • Quantity Surveyor:  Rider levett Bucknail
  • Visualisations:  MR.P

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

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.

Southbank by Beulah OMA Conrad Gargett Southbank The Base Future Cities Symposium 118 City Road


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