is currently undergoing construction on a platform built over the Jolimont
railyards, opposite Flinders Street Station
in the heart of Melbourne
Work on the site, which lies between Flinders Street and Yarra River, began in 1998 after the demolition of the former Gas and Fuel Corporation towers which had taken up part of the site. Although it had been planned by the previous ALP government, Liberal Jeff Kennett took the credit for the idea of creating a public square on the site, and architects were invited to submit their proposals. LAB + Bates Smart Architects, from England, were succesful.
The square will have many buildings and features, including a visitor's centre, a glass atrium, an Australian art gallery, a winter garden, various film/televison screens (one of which I am informed will show SBS programs) and bars, cafes et cetera. A new 5 hectare park will also be created alongside the square and river.
The Square's design is quite modern and hence attracted much controversy. Most of the displeasure focused upon one particular building, dubbed the left or southern "shard". Critics complained that this building blocked the view of St Paul's Cathedral when one was approaching the city from the leafy eastern suburbs, along St Kilda Road. The architects and people of good taste argued that it would disturb the balance of the design. Premier Steve Bracks, who replaced Kennett in 1999, caved in to the pressure and ordered the shard redesigned. Whereas its counterpart (which did not block any views) is quite beautiful, the redesigned shard is perhaps the ugliest element of Federation Square.
Materials used in the construction of the square include stones such as sandstone, which cover many of the buildings, and a red ochre which is supposed to evoke the outback or something. The remaining shard is clad in aluminum. The buildings are irregularly shaped, almost with an appearance of having been hewn from a rockface.
Despite a few questionable elements, such as the aforementioned altered shard and a hideously ugly toll-bridge behind it, Federation Square is shaping up to look quite stunning, certainly a step up from Melbourne's recent architectural acquisitions such as the Melbourne Museum and the Crown Casino. More open space is needed and for once it seems as if the people's needs are being catered to.
http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~lerma/federationsquare.htm has a model of what the square should look like eventually (though the removed shard is there) and photos of the original site, as well as some interesting and informative text, although it is quite out of date (the projected completion date is given as late 2000). This sentiment is one I share:
"The proposed square will house a range of uses. the most important is the civic plaza capable of holding rallies of 10,000 people. it will take the place of the current city square which is off limits as the westin hotel is under construction. there is always a need for people to come together when there is a need to cheer + jeer. fed square will provide that place."
The Square is named to celebrate the centenary of the Federation of the Australian colonies in 2001. Unfortunately it was not complete in time.
The square is now complete, and I went and had a look today. Nice indeed; report to come.