Finalist in Limited Design Competition
Docklands Drive, Docklands Melbourne
Principal in Charge:
Project Team Leader:
The Docklands is a vast urban renewal project located immediately to the west of Melbourne’s CBD. It is an important and necessary real estate expansion and overflow area directly outside the city grid. For the city, its people and the political landscape it has been a symbol of prosperity, growth and the newly defined capabilities and possibilities of Victoria.
There are 3 key precincts in the Docklands, MAB’s New Quay to the north, Lend Lease’s Victoria Harbour Precinct in the centre with Mirvac’s Yarra River Precinct lying to south. MAB Corporation’s New Quay Precinct is a dominant part of the Dockland’s occupying most of the northern harbour edge. MAB have developed a number of 20 level residential towers that provide the built form edging the waterfront. We were invited to participate in a limited design competition by MAB to design a new building as one element in the next stage of the large residential, commercial and retail precinct called New Quay Central (NQC) The site is referred to as Sites D + C of NQC and this land was part of the former ING Harbourside development which developed the Dockland’s Ferris Wheel.
The Ferris wheel sits to the north of the site as a forlorn reminder of a development gone wrong and forms a big element to the outlook from the site at the levels, particularly at night. The nature of the existing MAB building stock is simple, grey concrete and steel detailed mid rise towers. They are equally spaced and of similar height along the waterfront and their regularity and greyness beg the obvious urban design question as to whether the design response should be to continue the architecture meter and rhythm or break into a new song. The specifics of the site require a new building to be designed on an existing car park area that is edged to the west and south by low-rise retail remnants of the ING development, meaning that the new apartment building must emerge out from this “skirt of buildings” to gain views of the harbour and take its place on the streetscape of Docklands Drive, New Quay Central Park and the waterfront.
We formed the view that the most important thing was to break the existing built form rhythm by creating two narrow forms, one high and one low. These two elements would form an elegant and idyllic relationship together as if in discourse, like two people talking at a summer picnic by the lake, one friend “standing up” and one “lying down”, both relaxed, comfortable and engaged at the park and water experience. Residential architecture in the main is about creating amenity through the quality of its perimeter and its frontages to public and private spaces that deliver outlook. However, when your site is near a waterfront i.e. Docklands harbour, this dynamic is even further clarified.
We wanted as many apartments as possible to gain water views so the resultant concept was to create a simple podium of car parking to raise the first apartment levels well above the low-rise skirt of existing buildings and locate the “high” building at the north east corner and locate the “low” building on the western edge. To ensure we maximised the sculptural expression of the building we cantilevered the low building 20m beyond the site line in air space that the client had development rights over and gave the high building a small footplate to ensure it struck a slender pose. These two figures will change the Docklands, as they are a new urban form and vocabulary in an extraordinary setting of city, park, promenade and water. To complete our thinking and finish the simile we introduced a large, benign and tranquil landscape space between the buildings on top of the podium. This was done by flooding the podium with a shallow body of water and then augmenting it with simple elements such as a bridge, a tai chi area, a swimming pool and walkway. This is the third and last element of the composition and the residents’ fifth elevation.