Best Tall Building under 100 meters Award of Excellence: 271 Spring Street, Melbourne

Jason Lourensz
Head of Development - Healthcare, Life Sciences & Education
ISPT, Melbourne

Bill Krotiris
John Wardle Architects, Melbourne

A New Headquarters Shines in a Historic Precinct

Enabling viable commercial redevelopment of heritage places is vital for economic growth, provided this is coupled with sensitive preservation of the community’s shared history. The new headquarters for Australian Unity is located at 271 Spring Street in one of Melbourne’s historic precincts. Its development exemplifies the intricate balance between the needs associated with erecting a high-quality office tower, the tenant customer, and heritage conservation principles. The office tower is on a small site, which is notable for its significant constraints, including underground rail loop tunnels directly beneath the middle of the site, an electricity sub-station, two high-voltage easements, two significant heritage-listed buildings, and an archeological overlay. The new building manages to expand upon the history of the site to create a modern workplace, while restoring and integrating the two primary heritage buildings. Anchoring the corner, the building provides a permeable ground plane that takes pedestrians on a path through a redeveloped pocket park to the newly-refurbished Casselden Place office tower, and key heritage sites of Melbourne.

Intertwining historic building fabric and the contemporary architecture provided an innovative way to humanize the tower form, and create exemplary workplaces. The distinctive façade screen elements are an architectural interpretation of the hipped-roof geometry of the retained heritage buildings below. Circumventing the rail tunnels, combined with a myriad of planning and heritage requirements, resulted in a bespoke lightweight structural steel system with restricted foundation zones, all designed to deliver a large cantilever over the existing heritage assets on-site. A key design feature is the tactility of the recycled-brick podium that incorporates much of the ornate façade of the former buildings, while introducing a contemporary brick interpretation of the streetscape.

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