Melbourne is in the midst of a development frenzy. Amongst development for development’s sake, constructive criticism for how Melbourne’s urban framework can improve often falls by the wayside. Eight architects from some of Melbourne’s leading practices responded to the prompt: Where can Melbourne most improve.
Melissa Bright, MAKE Architecture
I think the area in most need for redevelopment is the middle and outer suburbs. To allow for population growth and stop suburban sprawl these areas must increase in density. The current model of oversized houses located increasingly greater distances from employment has meant a huge reliance on cars that is unsustainable.
Architecture should play an important role in providing good design solutions to increase density. If we are to live more closely to one another good design is essential to ensure the living quality is not reduced. Architecture (with the support from planning) can provide a socially sustainable built environment that encourages connections to communities.
Jimmy Carter, Folk Architects
City Rd, Southbank has become one of the car havens of inner city Melbourne. It’s desolate expanse of skyscrapers, trouble-free car access to Crown and the non-existence of ground level amenities has made this prime real estate between the CBD and the South Melbourne markets a desert in the middle of a rainforest of entertainment. The shadowy disused undercrofts of the Westgate Freeway and Kings Way compound this problem. These dark expanses of concrete and bitumen live for years without a single footstep on them.
Architecture surely has a role to play in initiating the usage of this public owned land that is in the heart of one the most highly densified areas of Melbourne. The potential to use these spaces as examples of urban best practice could see these areas establish significant cultural value in the area, by giving the population a place to congregate and establish a community.
Fooi-Ling Khoo, OOF! Architecture
St Kilda Triangle is a “shag on a rock” site: unforgivingingly exposed on all sides, weighed down with fear and expectation… and the neighbours! The steamroller personalities of Luna Park and the Palais will not forgive apologetic architecture. They don’t need subservients, they need equals who will help them carry the memories and imaginations of future generations.
Essie, Palais Theatre St Kilda, Flickr
Tim Black, BKK Architects
Melbourne’s inner city Cremorne found its namesake in the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens, established on the Yarra’s northern waterfront in the 1850s. Industrialisation and transport infrastructure have reduced the suburb’s relationship to the river to something distinctly unpleasurable. The creation of a new linear public space would remediate the scarring left by a buried Monash freeway, create a new link between the north bank’s disrupted green edges, and re-imagine Cremorne’s waterfront. Architects, Urban Designers, and Landscape Architects would play a critical role in such a regeneration.
Rachel Nolan, Kennedy Nolan Architects
Off the back of a wonderful reworking of Victoria Park in Abbotsford (by Aspect Studio) it would be great to see an innovative use of the vacant land that runs the length of the rail line on the western edge of the old Collingwood footy stand. Lulie Street could handle a high level of density developed on this site that is currently a public car park. Thoughtful architecture can work with the constraints of the train line, the Eastern freeway to the north and Hoddle Street to the west. It is time mixed use developments stepped up and made a positive contribution at the street interface.
Also, it is well and truly time for Melbourne’s Yarra side Aquarium to get an overhaul. This dead-fish needs a hand. Good architecture should not only solve the problem with how it looks, but should make the most of its adjacency to our river and its links back into our city.
Michael Roper, Architecture Architecture
With a growing population, Melbourne needs to learn how to densify with style – particularly in the mid-to-outer suburbs. Where is our template? What should we aspire to? Docklands clearly demonstrated that ‘the market’, left to itself, delivers very poor urban outcomes – that when individual land parcels are developed without consideration for the broader urban environment, the city suffers. A holistic vision is required. With the development of Fishermans Bend, we have a unique opportunity to demonstrate what high quality, high density, socially diverse, environmentally responsive, economically productive cities could look like. Think trees, people, community spaces, work opportunities, access to services, public transport, renewable energy sources and a bright bright future. This will require creative design thinking and strong government leadership.
martyr_67, In the Pink, Flickr
Karen Alcock, MA Architects
Melbourne inner suburbs are being taken over by residential and restaurants but what if these were complemented by a greater variety of uses such as office/studios, childcare, schools etc. Zoning by its nature is clumsy and does’t acknowledge the subtleties of the city and streets we love. More flexible zoning in activity centres would encourage a more diverse range of uses, improve security and assist with maintaining economic viability. Even our well known strip shopping areas suffer from high vacancy rates. What if local councils allowed a greater percentage of office use at street level as long as certain criteria were met. Walk through Soho in London and the streets are not full of shop fronts but a variety of uses that maintain a constant activity. The workers frequent the cafes and restaurants during the day and the local residents at night. The 24 hour activity improves safety and the variety of flexible uses and activities help provide a buffer from fluctuations in the economy.
Diversifying the mix at street level could be complemented with vertical mixed use zoning models where councils encourage – or even require – layered zoning throughout a building e.g Retail at ground, office over and then residential on top. Stonnington’s new Chapel Revision encourages a mix of office and residential in certain areas; this is a positive move for our City as councils realise that areas full of apartments with a single small retail space at the base – which can only realistically be used for a cafe – are hard to maintain en-mass.
With the support of flexible zoning our valuable inner city areas can continue to flourish and adapt to our changing economy and social needs.
MA Architect’s Luxe, Inkerman St, St Kilda.
Will Smart, Wolveridge Architects
I don’t feel there is any one area that needs more or less development – Melbourne is growing and it is essential that architects are at the forefront of shaping our fabric. Well-designed architecture, both residential and commercial, will not only have a short term benefit to the locale, but in the long term, after location, it will be a major factor in determining how desirable an area is.
Mossimoinc, Slade, Flickr