23 Jun 21

Melbourne’s newest landmark wins top prize, commercial architecture

Collins Arch, designed by Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects, has won the top award for Commercial Architecture at the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2021 Victorian Architecture Awards.  The award is named after Sir Osborn McCutcheon, an eminent Australian architect of the 20th century.

Collins Arch was also awarded a commendation in the Urban Design category in recognition of what the jury called “the rarity in the Australian context of truly integrated mixed-use buildings within a singular form and applauds the ambition of the project as well as the skilful handling and resolution of the complex programmatic constraints.”

Finding an exquisite balance between architectural innovation, design excellence, and commercial considerations, this mixed use development has transformed an entire city block in central Melbourne into a vibrant urban community. The diverse mix of activity, whose scale and complexity are unprecedented, lays the foundation for the highly-charged energy that makes a place feel great. From top to bottom Collins Arch is about liveability. Fresh, public open space, with connections to a network of dynamic spaces back to the Yarra River, optimises the flow of people, culture and commerce. Collins Arch is having positive impact on people’s enjoyment and a greener, more liveable Melbourne.

Chair of the Commercial Architecture jury, Rosemary Burne, said the project cleverly accommodated the different functions within the two towers. “It’s got a hotel, it’s got residential and it’s got office accommodation,” she said. “It’s quite difficult to get that kind of commercial mix up and going.”

In its citation, the jury commended Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects for eschewing both the expected podium/tower and the modernist plaza typology for a contemporary hybrid that successfully adapts to differing conditions and orientations.


“The architects have limited the facade expression to two dominant systems that shift and evolve to varying conditions, programs and the form. Keeping strictly to a limited palate brings clarity to the complex form while balancing the scale of the conjoined towers with the permeability and diversity of the public realm. The colonnade shifts with the fall of the site and creates a strong legibility to the various urban conditions and different programs, creating a series of generous public spaces and experiences that contribute to the integration of the project with the city.”

Both the Commercial Architecture and Urban Design juries described Collins Arch as a “rare example of true mixed use”. They commend the architects for successfully integrating “retail, hotel, offices and apartments into a single arched tower form, maintaining a permeable, publicly accessible ground plane with new through-block connections”. 

Describing Collins Arch as unlike anything else in the city, Woods Bagot CEO Nik Karalis says maintaining Melbourne’s status as one of the world’s most liveable cities requires continual evolution and innovation.

“The project is born of two key, complementary ideas: an urban design rationale that links it to a larger public space network; and a concept for mixed use development that privileges the activation of the ground plane to create a landmark destination,” said Mr Karalis.

The building’s bold and striking form – two towers connected by a skybridge –was dictated by the mix of program.

“The skybridge connecting the two buildings is not simply decorative. It maximizes views and sunlight for office, hotel and residential occupants of the two buildings that, on the ground, meet public space and commercial requirements,” says Bill Sharples, SHoP founding principal. “The ground plane was always where the project started; the building’s form was a result of the program.”

Collins Arch is the brainchild of Cbus Property, an Australian property investor and developer. The project now progresses to the National Architecture Awards, which will be announced on November 4. 

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