Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - Melbourne Central

Melbourne Central is a huge shopping centre built on top of the Melbourne Central train station. Originally designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, it was renovated in 2002 and given a complete face-lift. What remains of the original design is the office tower, the shopping podium has been completely transformed.

The design of Melbourne Central represents one of the new trends in Australian design, where the architecture takes on a whimsical and mischievous character - much like a stage set. Fantasy, humour and pop culture all play a part in the mix. The result is often eye-catching, however one can't help but wonder whether it would have lasting power. When architecture becomes fashion, it can't help but lose it's lustre in tandem with the trends.

The entance at the corner of Swanston and Latrobe Street. The design at this corner looks like a cardboard box which is being opened at the top.

Graphics plays a big part in the design.

The central atrium. An old tower on the site has been preserved as the main feature in the atrium.

Some of the shopping arcades.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum is located in the Carlton Gardens, towards the north-eastern corner of the CBD. It shares the Gardens with the Royal Exhibition Building, one of the largest heritage buildings in Victoria. 

Part of the Museum Victoria which has a number of venues around the city, the Melbourne Museum is a huge complex. The entrance plaza is very dramatic. It is a huge public square, and the sloping canopies of the Museum entrance provides shade and leads visitors into the building.

Designed by renown Melbourne firm Denton Corker Marshall (DCM), the architecture is modern, dramatic and angular. Skewed angles, sharp corners and meticulous detailing are signatures of their architecture. 

The Museum houses a number of collections. The Melbourne Gallery showcases the history of the city. The Discovery Centre is a science museum. There is also a Children's Gallery for the kids, and an IMAX Theatre. The quality of the exhibitions and architecture are worldclass. 

The dramatic entrance plaza and canopies. 

Inside the Museum - skewed angles and sharpe corners abound.

Melbourne Architecture - Southern Cross Station

The Southern Cross Station is a major transport hub on Spencer Street. It was built over the old Spencer Street Station Site. Completed in 2006 - in time for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, it now serves as the regional railway station and bus terminal of Victoria.

Designed by Grimshaw Architects from UK, the building has won numerous awards. It's most distinctive feature is the undulating roof, with steel trusses which rise and fall like waves of the sea. Skylights over the trusses provide daylight into the gigantic building, making it bright and airy.

I am usually not a big fan of big transport infrastructures. I find them often cold and impersonal. Internally there's not much to look at. It is afterall a big railway station. But just to feel the drama and scale of the structure is worth the trip.

The main entrance at the corner of Spencer and Collins Street.

Views inside the station.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - QV Centre

The QV Centre is a mixed-used development which was opened in 1993. A redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Hospital site, the project has 4 main components - QV 1 to QV4. Each part was designed by a different architect. There was a deliberate attempt to mix things up a bit in this project. It avoids the homogeneous look of most big commercial developments which can get stale very fast. Generally the whole place has a Uni Campus Vibe - a meeting of different minds, rather then a single totalitarian vision.

The architecture here is not "pretty" in the usual sense. But, to an architect it's like Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes design is not about creating pretty things, but about pushing boundaries, putting things together and see what you can come up with. Often the creative process is more interesting then the end product. And QV looks like a work in progress rather then a finished product, which makes it exciting as a visual experience. 

The main anchor for the project is the BHP Billiton Global Headquarters - a highrise office tower on Londsdale Street. There is a main public square in the centre, with a variety of food outlets and cafes. There are also 2 apartment buildings which provide the local population to support the retail and F&B business.

The BHP Billiton HQ on Londsdale Street. 

Entrance to QV Centre from Swanston Street.

The internal public square. There's a uni campus vibe to it.

View along Russel Street.

Shops are arranged along narrow alleyways.

The apartment buildings are also quite architecturally adventurous in design.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - Crown Casino

The Crown Casino Complex on Southbank was open in 1997. It injected a bit of life into an otherwise sedate Melbourne, though Melbournians may beg to differ. Attracting 16 million visitors a year, it has become the most popular destination in Victoria.

Designwise the complex is quite well done. It managed to avoid the usually gaudy casino architecture as in Vegas and Macau. Overall it is modern and cosmopolitan,and the most striking part of the complex is the Crown Towers Hotel. The oval-shaped tower is very elegant, and the variation in facade treatment from the lower to the upper levels creates visual interest and sophistication.

Besides the Casino which is the main attraction for most visitors, there are many shops, entertainment outlets, restaurants and cafes. The river promenade along Southbank is one of the nicest walks in Melbourne. Sitting in a cafe overlooking the Yarra River during sunset is one of the great pleasures to be had here.

The Southbank Promenade. One of the best places to spend a lazy afternoon in Melbourne.

Food. An important ingredient in any entertainment complex. International celebrity chef Nobu has also opened a restaurant here, so has famous Aussie Chef Neil Perry with his Rockpool Bar & Grill.

Slabs of premium beef being dry-aged.

A mouth-watering pastry shop.