The City of Melbourne appointed a pair of panels last week that include 40 designers and developers that will check applications for design merit and quality. Reports from the Design Excellence Advisory Committee and Melbourne Design Review Panel will provide guidance for councillors before they grant approval to new developments.

Councillor Reece said the panels would be affecting the Melbourne building industry, which has been booming over the next 20 decades. He says that, especially in COVID recovery mode, we must build back better.

The panels would not supply an added layer of governance or red tape, but provide “light touch” pragmatic suggestions to enhance applications.

The panels feature Eureka tower architect Karl Fender and Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew.

Fellow panel member and Melbourne University associate professor of architecture Rory Hyde expressed his concern about the abundance of “poor-quality, development-driven” tilt slab concrete towers in Melbourne.

He says that it’s especially difficult for Melbourne, a city known for great design, to be home to substandard structures.

Hyde referenced the Neo200 building at the corner of Spencer and Little Bourke streets, where eight storeys of car park space along the street did not permit a “living” city.

He critiqued City Road in Southbank, which he defined as having heavy traffic with little provision. He said that some of the structures are well designed, but that the buildings combined present problems for the city.

Panel member and Monash University architect Shelley Penn stated that even the finest architects could benefit from fresh input.

Recent developments include Abode at 318 Russell Street and the A’Beckett Tower at 31A. A’Beckett Street had suffered from bad quality materials, blank walls with service panels, and several levels of car parks.

The area surrounding both buildings felt unsafe to walk, she said, and the overall quality of Melbourne buildings had deteriorated.

Panel members cited samples of strong CBD architecture as the CBD the QV complex on Swanston Street, the development at the base of Nauru House at 80 Collins Street, Melbourne Connect at 700 Swanston Street, Collins Arch at 447 Collins Street and the Ian Potter Southbank Centre for the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

Panel member and architect Georgia Birks stated that it was important to criticise design and the development of design to ensure it responded to the needs of good city living.

She stated that design and architecture must respond to the issues of climate change, population growth and the coronavirus pandemic, which had affected Melbourne. Ultimately, she said, we must activate Melbourne streets.


Image credits by Eddie Jim