Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine

Laurence DragomirJuly 31, 20180 min read

The second instalment in's Southbank by Beulah series highlights UN Studio and COX Architecture's entry dubbed "The Green Spine" which celebrates and contributes to Melbourne's parklands and gardens.

The collaborative design proposal aims to establish the site as a new destination within Southbank, which forms part of the linear part network being delivered via the Southbank Boulevard project, connecting the Botanical Gardens with the Yarra River.

The project is both characterised and organised around the ‘Green Spine’ of vertically networked of cascading platforms, terraces and verandas, which begin at street level and wind their way up the tower's extremities.

Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine
To maximise solar permeability to City Road, the scheme is split into two towers. Image: UN Studio and COX Architecture

COX Architecture and UN Studio’s distinct design considers nature, culture and well-being within the urban framework and is the product of the two firms’ collaborative, conceptual thinking of future living.

In addition to being fully integrated within the existing Melbourne network of cultural, entertainment, leisure and commercial venues on offer, with its variety of programmes and connectivities, the design further proposes a mixed-use building that is a city in itself.

The Green Spine is conceived as an environmental tool, adding a distinctly contemporary, Australian vernacular and striking presence to Melbourne’s skyline.

The Green Spine is created by splitting a single mass of the planning envelope to create two separate towers of varying height, revealing the "almost geological strata of their core layers as they rise above a light-filled canyon."

The towers that result on either side benefit from city views, access to daylight, strong permeability and vastly improved contextual links. The orientation of the Green Spine enables an extension of the public realm from the podium, sweeping up the towers, oriented towards the CBD and the Botanical Gardens at the top of the towers.

A host of programmes, including recreation, retail, offices, residential, hotel and exhibition spaces are integrated into the vertically stepped public infrastructure – an infrastructure that is formed by indoor-outdoor spatial frames that embed nature, public space and culture.

On a local level, the aim of the design is to provide porousness at street level, whilst simultaneously connecting the upper floors with the streetscape by expanding the public realm.

Southbank by Beulah: UN Studio & COX Architecture - The Green Spine
The Green Spine as viewed from City Road & Southbank Boulevard. Image: UN Studio and COX

What they say:

What I thought was so great about the location is that on one hand it is closely related to the botanical garden and inner city and will be seen from so many parts of the city, but also that it so nicely connects to all this liveliness of Melbourne.

- Ben van Berkel, Founder UN Studio

Everywhere really, you continuously see this green, and it's a lively green - it twists around.

- Caroline Bos, Co-Founder UN Studio

Through the exploration of a series of massing forms, we came to the realisation that a singular tower form was going to be a serious impediment on the precinct and the connections from Southbank to the CBD.

So we evolved the design to look at the idea of two towers, with a great separation between those two towers, creating a permeability of light and views through the Southbank precinct.

- Pete Sullivan, Director COX   

The other key component to this is the way we integrate the Southbank Boulevard and the importance, I think, within this precinct creating amenity for the area is key.

- Phillip Rowe, Director COX


  • Value: AUD 2 billion
  • GFA/ Area: 253,485 sqm
  • Height: 360m + 246m


  • Future City, London: Cultural Placemaking
  • Studio Drift, Amsterdam: Lead Artist
  • Atelier 10, Melbourne: Sustainability and Well-being
  • Grant Associates: Landscape Architect
  • GTA Consultants: Traffic & Accessibility 
  • ARUP, Melbourne: Engineering

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

Southbank by Beulah, UNStudio, Green Spine from UNStudio on Vimeo.

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
UN Studio
Cox Architecture
Future Cities Symposium
118 City Road
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