April 14 2014

Melbourne’s Federation Square as a Catalyst for Community Building

Melbourne’s Federation square was built in 2002, as a critical response to the failures of past developments on the site. Dating back to the 1960s, with the Gas and Fuel Corporation buildings that occupied the site, the redevelopment sought to connect the city to the waterfront, as well as the important Flinders train station. The development was to serve as a mixed-use space for an active public domain.

Melbourne Federation Square used by the public, Australia

Melbourne Federation Square, used by the public.

The development came after a tough architectural competition in 1997, involving some big names in architecture such as ARM architecture and DCM Architecture. The chosen development, by Lab Architecture Studio in partnership with Bates Smart, would create several new five-storey buildings throughout the site, but would also focus on developing the public realm. This, therefore, involved using the new buildings to create alleys and walkways that would reconnect the site to its surroundings.

When finally developed, the final price tag was over four times its original estimated budget, and was also not completed on schedule. This government-funded project did, however, establish something that has helped to create and define Melbourne’s very “interactive” culture thus far.

Federation Square is defined as a building, a set of buildings and as a public space – and it is one development that can truly be called all these things. It manages to create private space where businesses can operate, as well as inviting the public into the heart of the development. Federation Square is where the public goes whenever there is an important event happening in the world; from Formula One racing on a big screen to World Cup matches, the public always comes in thousands to be part of the Melbourne community. With over nine million visitors per year it is clear that if Melbourne, as a city, has a home, it’s Federation Square.

An interesting fact about Federation Square is its sense of openness versus the high infrastructural demands of a city. The design is very bold and creates an unfiltered space to which the community can finally relate to the city scale. This makes the space a “playground” for people and ideas that would not be possible anywhere in the inner central business district of Melbourne.

The Architecture of Melbourne Federation Square

The architecture of Melbourne Federation Square

The Melbourne community therefore has found a place to dwell. From lazy Sunday afternoons where any sort of activity could be found in the Square, to more organised events with thousands in attendance, Federation Square caters to Melbourne’s diverse population.

The success of this project gives me, as a young architect, hope in the ability of architecture to change the aura of the city and create something unique that belongs to the community. In the contemporary world of architecture, designs are heavily focused on maximizing space and reducing cost. Federation Square is unique with its focus on creating “space,” cost be damned. This might be the reason the development cost went from A$128 million to A$467 million.

Are there any recent projects out there that give you a say and have been a success and influence the community positively?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Kunal Matikiti.

Kunal Matikiti

Originally from Zimbabwe, Kunal ventured to Australia to study architecture. After completing his Masters in 2012 at Deakin University, Kunal started working in Melbourne as a graduate architect at a small residential firm and has since moved to a bigger, and more commercially focused firm. With a keen interest in African Architecture, Kunal manages a small blog, www.afritect.com, where topics range from art and culture to architecture and fashion in Africa. Kunal is looking forward to earning valuable experience in Australia’s booming architectural sector and develop the skills and thought processes required to resolve some of the issues facing the unestablished creative sector in parts of Africa. Understanding of culture is an important element of Kunal's work and this forms a major element in his endeavours. Writing for The Grid is an exciting challenge and Kunal hopes to give a different and interesting perspective to an already established city.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 9:33 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Melbourne’s Federation Square as a Catalyst for Community Building”

  1. Susana Arisso Says:

    The Guggenheim Museum did that for Bilbao in the mid 90s. A small industrial town put itself on the map and revitalized its economy and community by bringing a global destination in a remarkable building. http://t.co/XRycBbpnAA

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