Federation Square

Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia by Lab Architecture Studio, 2002

The following text and images (click for larger views) are courtesy Lab Architecture Studio for their design of Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia.

The result of an international design competition, Federation Square, which is Lab's first realized building, is a new civic precinct in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. The project, 3.6 ha (8.8 acres) in area and effectively the construction of an entire city block over railway tracks, consists of nine separate cultural and commercial buildings with a combined area of 45,000 sm (485,000 sf).

These facilities include two new cultural institutions, Australian art galleries for the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), SBS (Australia's multi-cultural broadcaster), Melbourne's Visitor Information Centre, retail spaces, a car park and numerous restaurants and cafes, all grouped around two new civic spaces. One is a civic plaza, while the other is a unique glazed and covered atrium, whose southern end includes a glass walled theater.

The civic plaza is a key for the entire project, establishing precise and varying relationships with the acknowledged diverse context of the city and landscape around the site. The design's geometry allows for a vast array of configuration and arrangements, from the largest scale public gathering of up to 25,000 people, to intimate sites of relaxation and contemplation. To distinguish it from the city's existing pavement, the plaza is surfaced in cobblestones of distinctly colored Kimberley sandstone, whose palette ranges from reds, oranges, yellows and pinks to purples, mauves and grays, which are arranged to form a subtly differentiating pattern across the entire plaza surface.

The building façades are constructed from three cladding materials; sandstone, zinc and glass, which have been used within a modular basis established by the triangular pinwheel grid. This fractally incremental system uses a single triangle, the proportions of which are maintained across the single tile shape, the panel composed of five tiles, and the mega-panel construction module composed of five panels. The atrium is a large, high volume public thoroughfare and covered meeting space. With an open interior volume almost 16 meters (52 feet) high and 16 meters across, this glass enclosed galleria provides a sheltered extension of the civic plaza. In the atrium a series of non-uniform frame shapes have been developed that form a continuous structure, utilizing a limited number of standard components.

The National Gallery of Victoria building includes a total of 7,250 sm (78,000 sf) of gallery space showcasing the institutions unique collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands' work on the ground floor, as well as housing the NGV's historic and modern Australian collections on level 2. The building's design suggests the means for visitors to inscribe their own experiences on the collection through a shifting matrix of gallery view lines and cross connections. The simple dual filament composition of the galleries is expressed through the building in the plans and volumes, as well as through the façade and roof. It allows a direct following of chronology through the building's inherent figure eight.

ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image) houses facilities including the state film cinemas, a 1,700 sm (18,000 sf) screen gallery, web-casting studio, production lab, electronic classroom, interactive media research library and exhibition and technology showcases. Two distinct arcades have been used to express both the buildings' internal circulation as well as forming the main foyer and circulation spaces which vertically connect all the functional components. At the ground level, both buildings are joined by the arcade foyer and its linkage of the ticketing, educational and retail areas. The east arcade serves as a connection to the plaza as well as providing an animation of the building through the temporal ebb and flow of people leaving the cinemas after each session.