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Woods Bagot Principal and Design Leader Hazel Porter spoke at the Victorian Major Projects Conference, discussing the city-shaping potential of large commercial projects like Lendlease’s Melbourne Quarter Tower.
The 12th annual Victorian Major Projects Conference was a two-day program delving into the significant infrastructure projects supporting Victorian communities in a post-pandemic economy.
Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and attended by 200 delegates, the program explored the transformative emerging projects that are shaping the future of the city, from the Melbourne Metro and West Gate Tunnel projects to Victoria’s $5-billion social and affordable housing investment.
Porter discussed the latest addition to Lendlease’s $2.5-billion Melbourne Quarter precinct – the Melbourne Quarter Tower (MQT).
Melbourne Quarter precinct is redefining Docklands and its relationship to the CBD. Situated opposite Southern Cross Station, the precinct bridges a missing link between Docklands and the CBD, classified a city-shaping urban regeneration project.
With Melbourne overtaking Sydney this year as Australia’s most populous city (a crown the former titleholder had held since 1905), the city needs infrastructure to support its swelling population and diversifying needs.
“In the last fifty years, we have doubled our numbers,” says Porter. “Future forecasts show that by 2041, the number of people living in the City of Melbourne is expected to double again, with a 41-percent increase in people working in the city.”
“We see an energy for commercial development moving west,” continues Porter. “The Hoddle Grid is finite, and we need to consider how we continue to develop the city while retaining its title as the third most liveable city in the world. This is where Melbourne Quarter is positioned to literally bridge the gap.”
In a post-pandemic climate, the priority of city-makers and developers alike is to entice workers back into the CBD. “There is an emphasis on precincts to deliver urban renewal objectives and placemaking at a broader scale, to capture a diverse range of uses for a resilient and holistic vision,” says Porter.
As populations continue to grow, the city is in need of major urban projects that are both socially responsive and commercially driven, balancing the priorities for common good and private interest.
“In the case of Melbourne Quarter, the urban regeneration aspect is convincing, with more than 50 percent of the total area dedicated to public open space,” says Porter. “The new city block contains a vibrant mix of commercial, residential and community uses, with ample open-air opportunities to cater for residents, commercial tenants and the general public alike.”
With the near completion of Collins Square in 2016, Melbourne Quarter commenced with 1MQ and the Skypark, with the first two residential towers followed closely behind. In 2019, the Woods Bagot-designed Two Melbourne Quarter (2MQ) was underway, completed in 2020, setting up the western podium edge spanning Wurundjeri Way.
Now in 2023, MQT has topped out, with the near-completion of the public open spaces and Skypark.
“Melbourne Quarter precinct began with the vision to close a missing link created by the rail lines west of the city,” says Porter. “We’re knitting together disparate city conditions through urban design.”
As the third and final commercial tower within the precinct, MQT covers 34 tenanted stories, the top seven levels featuring cascading rooftop floorplates, with a total of 70,000 square metres of net-lettable office floor, and 4,000 square metres of retail.
Straddling Wurundjeri Way, MQT realises one of the key urban objectives of the masterplan, tying together the built form along Collins Street, connecting the CBD and Docklands. Maximising the volumetric titles, the tower rises directly over the freeway, returning valuable inner-city space back to the public.
The resulting tower sits comfortably in the scale and rhythm of the expanded city grid, its curvilinear form embracing the public square and shouldering from the freeway. The tower resonates equally in the city skyline and at ground plane, the curve of the roof and concave built form replicated in the podium canopy arch.
“Interestingly, the big-building challenges that we anticipated have been resolved relatively smoothly,” says Porter. “For example, bridging over Wurundjeri Way to maximise space within a small footprint. The helical sloping roof was also designed as a solution to maximising tenancies while mitigating overshadowing on Southbank following a rigorous program of prototyping and modularising.”
Precinct developments like these are becoming an increasingly significant tool for urban transformation of our cities. To ensure their future resilience in an increasingly densified city, Porter says we need projects that maximise footprints, renew underutilised space, and incorporate publicly accessible open-air opportunities.
“The urban design drivers for the Melbourne Quarter precinct are all focused on joining the core of the city with the fringe,” continues Porter. “This includes joining Hoddle Grid and Victoria Quay; continuing the city grain to the fringe; creating a walkable Collins Street with permeability and connections; and enabling diversity in the public domain.
“These are the drivers that positively shape urban developments in our city.”
Melbourne Quarter precinct is slated for completion in 2026.
Content and Communications Specialist (Australia & New Zealand)