Federation Square decision cause for concern

The Australian Institute of Architects says there has been a lack of due process in the Victorian Government’s decision to allow the demolition of the Yarra Building in Federation Square and its replacement with a new Apple Flagship Store.

Victorian Chapter President Vanessa Bird said the decision has caused great concern within the architectural profession and broader community.

‘The Institute is pleased that Melbournians are so passionate and proprietorial about their iconic public buildings, places and recent heritage,’ Ms Bird said.

‘In approving these plans for Federation Square, we fear that an unacceptable process for dealing with a major public asset will set a poor precedent. We understand that there has been limited, if any, consultation with the City of Melbourne, nor has there been a competitive process for an appropriate commercial tenant or any public consultation.

‘While we understand that a commercial use is not incongruous with the original intent of combining cultural and commercial uses at Federation Square we do not support the lack of due process.

‘There is an international discussion about the City’s ability to ‘make corporates behave’, for example McDonalds at the Spanish Steps in Rome, however there has been no such public debate here. We need to have a public discussion around the best way to manage our public assets.

‘We are nevertheless encouraged that the OVGA and Donald Bates of LAB Architecture Studio have been consulted. Mr Bates has said: “Apple Federation Square respects and expands on the original vision for the site, with more public space, extensive landscaping and better access to the river allowing more people to enjoy this renowned civic, cultural and commercial hub.”

‘From an environmental perspective, the community expects a longer life from our public buildings and do not expect that they become landfill in just 15 years’, says Ms Bird.

‘A range of questions have been left unanswered: Could the building be repurposed for a commercial use? Could Apple go into the Bourke Street Mall?’