The $205 million expansion, carried out by Woods Bagot and Melbourne-based firm NH Architecture, for the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) is officially open.
The project includes an additional 20,000 square meters of new space added to the original building that Woods Bagot and NH Architecture completed in 2009 in Melbourne’s Southbank. The extension is comprised of a 9,000-square-meter exhibition space with a flexible, multipurpose system that can compose individual rooms; a 1000-seat theatre; multiple meeting rooms; 450-guest banquet room; café and bar; and extended parking facilities. The Novotel Melbourne South Wharf Hotel, a 20-story tower sitting above the six-story parking garage podium, was also designed by the Woods Bagot and NH Architecture team and is linked to the extension by pedestrian bridges to avoid vehicle traffic.
"The design resolution enabled the commercial outcome. This is now a totally integrated precinct, a mix of world-class exhibition and meeting facilities with supporting infrastructure of a new hotel and carpark,” Principal and Project Director, Andy Gentry, said of its integration with the surrounding urban fabric and ability to accommodate various events. "Whether a visitor is here for a one-hour meeting or a three-day conference, the experience is cohesive, and it feels part of the Melbourne culture."
This expansion introduces a central “hub” space linking the existing convention center, new exhibition space, and other areas just introduced to the project. As such, it is accessible from all of the buildings within the facility and is clad in a covered, timber courtyard—effectively knitting together the master plan.
“Architecture and design are at the very heart of the MCEC expansion, which is a continuation of the outstanding qualities of the existing building," NH Architecture's Director of architecture and design, Hamish Lyon, said. "The new event areas and public spaces will ensure the precinct is a vibrant destination for both locals and visitors.”
The result is a core area for Melbourne that promotes the city as an international symbol to host convention and exhibitions while also providing access to the nearby retail center, financial precinct, and the emerging entertainment district.
Photography: Peter Bennetts