Some buildings are an instant sensation. Others have the potential to change the course of a city's architecture. Architect Stuart Harrison takes us on a tour of structures that have significantly influenced the development of this city, both architecturally and culturally. All of them are located around the outer perimeter of the city grid.
Southern Cross Station
Architects: Grimshaw Architects
Location: Corner Spencer and Collins streets, Melbourne
We start our tour under an exceptional roof – Southern Cross Station (formerly Spencer Street Station) on the western edge of the Melbourne grid. Finished in 2006, Southern Cross is the first large, built piece of 'digital' design in Melbourne. The station not only uses computer-reliant construction, but also looks as such. Designed by British architect Nicholas Grimshaw,
Its complex undulating roof has become an icon for this end of the city.
The Exhibition and Convention Centre
Architects: Denton Corker Marshall, NHArchitecture (extension)
Completed: 1996 (completed 2009)
Location: Corner Clarendon Street and Normanby Road, Southbank
Just across the Yarra on Spencer Street looms the cantilevering entry canopy of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. The city's largest structure was designed by Denton Corker Marshall and otherwise known as 'Jeff 's Shed' after former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, who commissioned the building. The Exhibition Centre's main roof is an uninterrupted curved steel surface, like a giant plane wing, and is best seen from above. The complex was recently extended to become the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre. The new facilities are the work of NHArchitecture, one of Melbourne's largest and most prolific firms.
Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Architects: Yuncken Freeman Architects, Gregory Burgess Architects (refurbishment)
Completed: 1959, 2002 (refurbishment)
Location: Kings Domain, Melbourne
Across the river from Flinders Street Station, inside the Domain, you will find the magnificent Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Home to many great events, it opened in 1959 and was designed by Yuncken Freeman Architects. Marvelling at its modern look,The Herald called the Music Bowl 'the most startling architectural piece ever seen in Melbourne'. The tensile cable structure spans between the ground and two graceful, billowing columns, using the ground to form an auditorium (some say its aerodynamic shape was inspired by Louis Armstrong's trumpet). The facility was carefully restored and upgraded by architect Greg Burgess a few years ago.
Architects: McIntyre and Borland
Location: Corner Batman Avenue and Swan Street, Melbourne
Back across the Yarra toward Richmond is the sports mecca of Melbourne Park, home also to the MCG. The 1956 Olympic Pool is a superb piece of balanced engineering and architecture, and from the same period of experimentation as the Myer Music Bowl. It is now the training and function centre of the Collingwood Football Club. The expressed overhanging seating makes its original function apparent, and the tensile cables hold the building down. It is forerunner to many expressed-structure sports buildings around the world.
AAMI Park (Rectangular Sports Stadium)
Architects: Cox Group
Location: Swan Street, Melbourne
AAMI Park is just to the east of Olympic Pool. Designed by the Melbourne office of the Cox Group of Architects, it uses transparent plastic EFTE cladding (also used in the Beijing Water Cube for the 2008 Olympics) in a series of merged giant 'bubbles' that form the canopies. Built to house the increasingly popular 'rectangular' sports of soccer and rugby, the building uses an optimised structure for efficiency – ironically this means rectangularity gives way to arched and dome-like spans.
Designers: Bates Smart & McCutcheon
Location: 1 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne
At the top of the city grid sits one of the most seminal pieces of Melbourne design, the former ICI House (now Orica Headquarters). This is a quintessential piece of post-war modernism – finished in 1957 and designed by Bates Smart & McCutcheon, Australia's oldest design practice. The cool, disciplined glass slab block radical for its time, using the new technology of the 'curtain wall' to achieve a continuous glass façade. ICI House was the first building to break the old 40-metre height limit across the city, paving the way for the modern skyline you can see today.