Southbank Journal: US$1.5 billion mixed-use tower with a “green spine” proposed for Melbourne riverside neighborhood.

By Ron Bernthal

An Australia developer, Beulah International, has selected the Amsterdam-based UNStudio’s design proposal for a mixed-use tower in the Southbank area of Melbourne. The Australian firm Cox Architecture, is working with UNStudio on the project.

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Southbank Square view (image Norm Li)

Southbank, a busy commercial and residential district, is located on the south bank of the Yarra river, and is home to several of Melbourne’s iconic structures including the Malthouse theater, based in a restored brewery, and the state-of-the-art Melbourne Recital Centre which hosts classical concerts, and the sprawling Crown Casino complex, where clubs, food courts and designer shops attract both residentrs and tourists, Southbank’s riverside promenades feature many outdoor dining venues and cargo sheds housing craft-beer bars. 

The US$!.5 billion “Southbank by Beulah” project is attracting much attention because of its height, at 1,168 feet it will be the tallest tower in Australia, and because of its “Green Spine” of vertically networked platforms, terraces and verandas.

Green Spine will be two towers, twisting around one another in a cantilevered tangle of geometric glass and green garden terraces. This multifaceted spine is created by the splitting open of the potential single mass at the building’s core, thereby forming two separate high rise structures and causing them to “reveal the almost geological strata of their core layers as they rise above a light-filled canyon” explains UNStudio’s.

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View of the “Green Spine” (image Norm Li)

As a result of this design intervention, the tower’s that emerge on either side can enjoy excellent city views and the residences, offices and the hotel will benefit from increased daylight and access to outdoor spaces.

The orientation of the Green Spine further enables an extension of the public realm on the podium, the continuation of green onto the towers and facilitates orientation to the Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and the Botanical Garden at the top of the towers.

“Green Spine showed work by a strong, multidisciplinary collaborative team that is a bold, yet thoroughly considered approach to creating a context driven landmark as an addition to Melbourne’s skyline,” said Adelene Teh, executive director for Beulah International. “In its details, the scheme displays a strong intent for well-considered public and private amenity, and at street level, the proposal displays qualities that will truly transform the public realm by eroding the hard edges that is prevalent in Southbank.”

The taller of the two towers will be entirely residential and reach a height of 1,168 feet. This tower will house a publicly accessible garden at its top. The lower tower will be home to a hotel and commercial space and top out at 827 feet.

Southbank panorama (image Norm Li)

In addition to being fully integrated within the existing Melbourne network of cultural, entertainment, leisure and commercial venues neaby, with its variety of programs and connectivities, the design proposes a mixed-use building that is a city in itself.

“In addition to providing the towers with a twisting, sculptural silhouette, the Green Spine is an architectural element that incorporates a multitude of functions in one fluid gesture,” said Ben van Berkel, a Dutch architect and founder and principal architect of UNStudio.  

The spine extends the Southbank Boulevard upwards and acts as the key organizational element of the building with respect to the building’s culture, landscape and sustainability. In addition to housing a variety of amenities, almost all building programs are linked to the Green Spine.

View from Southbank Boulevard (image Norm Li)

At ground level, the Spine directly engages with Southbank Boulevard by bringing people up and into the building. From the public park at the top of the podium, the Spine continues to entwine itself around the two towers, where it culminates at the top of the residential tower in ‘Future Gardens’.

The design proposal for Southbank by Beulah was “motivated by the concepts of togetherness joint ownership and open access for local residents and the wider communitymm,” according to UNStudio. Thus, the podium and its public rooftop park are reserved for public use. Within the podium a public marketplace, retail and entertainment spaces and a BMW experience center will be housed.

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View of Marketplace and Podium (image Norm Li)

The Marketplace entrance is an easily accessed open space for visitors and tower residents. The retail spaces have their own unique access to balconies and terraces, allowing shoppers to engage with an environment that differs from that of typical retail mall or street. The connection from ground level unfolds through stairs and platforms, leading visitors up along the retail and entertainment areas before merging into the public garden at the top of the podium.

Construction of the Southbank project is forecast to begin in early 2022, and is expected to take approximately five years to complete. Beulah International is hoping to announce the project’s hotel operator in 2021.

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