Federation Square

One of Melbourne’s most unique architectural forms, located in the exciting heart of the city, is the iconic Federation Square. As well as boasting an abundance of quality restaurants and bars, the square is also home to a selection of galleries such as: Ian Potter Centre, the Australian Centre of the Moving Image and the SBS headquarters, making it a contemporary hub for the arts, fine dining and entertainment. The controversial design of Federation Square has made it a cultural landmark, as well as a unique development in Melbourne’s architectural heritage. With it’s striking geometric forms and bold lines, Federation Square is a beautiful example of creative innovation in architecture, and demonstrates Melbourne’s enthusiasm for combining the past and the present. The distinctive architecture and open plan of the bustling square offers abundant potential for striking, panoramic and diverse photographs. Standing in the middle of the square in your elegant gown, or sharp suit, the stunning panoramic views of the city provide a wonderful contemporary backdrop to your wedding day. Federation square’s proximity to other iconic landmarks, such as Flinders St. Station, the Arts Centre Complex, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, render the square a fashionable and convenient choice of location between the ceremony and reception.

Planning for the square officially began when the block of land south of the Hoddle grid was selected. During the initial planning period, it was understood that for a new public square to accommodate the public both physically and culturally it would require ambitious and considered design. Thus in 1997 premier Jeff Kennett announced an architectural design competition, whose brief sought to better connect Flinders Street to the Yarra River. The selection of architects for Federation Square was based on an international, two stage design competition, which required that the design for this contemporary civic square was capable of hosting up to 15,000 people in an open air amphitheatre. The competition attracted hundreds of entries and was finally awarded to a collaborative partnership– between London based: Lab architectural studio, and prominent Melbourne firm: Bates Smart.

The result of an architectural design competition, the current incarnation of Federation Square was meant to connect Flinders Street station to the Yarra River, and to enhance and complement the neighbouring heritage buildings, significantly the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral and Flinders Street Station. The winning design, from a consortium of Lab Architecture Studio and Bates Smart, consisted of daring “shards” thrusting into the sky. However, this caused outrage amongst heritage advocates, who condemned the design. Due to a change of government during it’s construction, the plans for Federation Square were significantly modified in order to appease it’s opposers, which resulted in the Federation Square we know and love today.

Construction began on this multi million dollar project in 1998. Because the square was built over a functioning railway, structural work was gradual, the total scale of the plan measuring 38,000 square metres, or one city block. In the lead up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001, the development of Federation Square offered a unique opportunity – the chance to celebrate ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ through a much needed civic and cultural space.

The open air agora was officially opened to the public on 26th October 2002. Unlike traditional public spaces like Venice’s San Marco or New York’s Rockefeller Centre, Fed Square is made up of a series of interlocking and cascading spaces. Buildings open at all angles into the city, creating unexpected connections and vistas. In response to the brief, the design was heavily influenced by the idea of ‘Federation’, of bringing disparate parts together to form a coherent whole. The complex of buildings held in the square form a loose U-shape, creating a magnificent central space between them, perfect for elegant long range vistas, active poses, and generous group photos of the bridal party.

The design of Federation Square is divided attractively into a number of distinct, yet harmonious areas. Which means there a a selection of fabulous spots for diversely themed photographs– from the bustling atmosphere of the main square, to the more intimate and tree lined, river side areas. The eastern end of the square which is predominantly bluestone and sandstone: acts as a stunning complement to much of the  surrounding architecture in Melbourne. The elegant tones rendered by this exterior makes for a classic backdrop on your wedding day. In subtle contrast to this historically sensitive design, the main square which is paved in 470,000 ochre-coloured sandstone blocks from Western Australia, invoke images of the Outback. The paving is designed as a huge urban artwork: titled Nearamnew, and gently rises above street level, containing a number of textual pieces inlaid in its undulating surface. The triangular glass choreography of the atrium walls, casts picturesque light over the internal laneway-like space. The exposed metal structure and glazing patterns of the precincts façade follow a interlocking pinwheel tiling pattern, a fitting symbol for a wedding day, where two parties are joined in union. The rest of the buildings are covered in subtle bluestone, which references footpaths elsewhere in central Melbourne. The vivid roses, golds, ochres, and pale creams combined in the blocks evokes the bright manifold colours of the Australian Outback.  Clad various in metallic sheets and glass, the shards are a love letter to modern minimalist design. The minimal industrial materials of the shards contrast against the earthy natural materials of the paving, creating a dynamic juxtaposition between the various materials and shapes of Federation Square.

The Atrium, Federation Square’s covered interior space, has an exposed metal framework, which follows the pinwheel pattern of irregular scalene triangles. The continuity built between the tiling and the exposed metal structure covered in the delicately tinted green glass creates a sense of unity in the building, expressing a nationally recognised architectural whole. The combination of old and new in Federation Square, shown it’s it’s contemporary references and understanding of it’s heritage, make the design an impressive and internationally recognisable landmark. Despite it’s somewhat rocky beginnings, Federation Square has grown in the heart of Melbourne as one of it’s most recognisable examples of contemporary architecture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply