There’s a tension evident in Fremantle. The suburb is increasingly looked to as an emerging creative sibling of big-city Perth, but while its demographic is increasingly young, its heritage fabric is irreducibly rich.
The question for architects and local government is becoming how to balance a drive for new amenities and infrastructure with a need to protect the rich heritage backbone of the city’s built environment.
The Kings Square redevelopment is a large-scale, multi-use project that aims to offer a long-term solution for the area. At the heart of the revitalisation project will be FOMO, a coordinated redevelopment of the former Myer building, the Queensgate building and the Queensgate carpark, undertaken by design firm HDR.
The precinct will contain a number of ‘borderless’ retail and hospitality precincts, at the centre of which will be a double-storey ‘emporium’. Each of these precincts will be imbued with its own unique character, but will spill into one another to create what HDR principal Susanna Pini calls “a finely nuanced, multi-layered, multi-dimensional experience [that comes from] working at the interesting intersection between things”.
“At the scale of the city, Fremantle has a character that balances the seeds of an ever-emerging creative ‘thread’ with a ‘backbone’ of stunning heritage fabric born from its shipping history,” says Pini.
“We have responded to this [brief] with an exploration of the graceful arched forms which are evident in these buildings. We have studied the rhythm and spacing of these elements reflected in Fremantle’s historical fabric and taken this syncopated rhythm in colonnades to the façade of the development.
“At the micro scale, the site [of the FOMO development] was the former home of the Myer department store. We respond to this by allowing the rich and activated ground plane to weave around and under the structure as an insertion that isn’t bounded by enclosure.”
A double-storey ‘emporium’ is at the centre of the development, which will contain “an eclectic mix of retail concepts that allow an organic and free-flowing ‘borderless’ experience”. Pini says that this multi-level emporium is in itself like an amphitheatre, as the surrounding retail precincts – Street Alley, Tidal Lane and Newman Court – all look into and engage with the space.
“These precincts form balcony edges to the emporium, spilling life, sound and activity into the space.”
The hawker street market environments of south-east Asia have been channelled in Street Alley, which connects William Street to Queen Street in what Pini calls “an organic ribbon of frenetic chaos”. Coloured light, emanating from ‘chandeliers’ that sit in the coffers of the existing concrete soffit of the building, adds to the energetic feel of the space.
The next precinct, Tidal Lane, stitches together the northern and southern campuses with a green canopy. It was conceived as a pocket park in the city that is capable of holding a diversity of performances and events, from theatre to food trucks to farmers’ markets.
Directly above FOMO, a fully integrated twin campus office space will be created, to be leased entirely to the Western Australian state government. The project will also deliver a new City of Fremantle administration and civic centre, and the rejuvenation of public spaces that surround the site.
“Our concept speaks to the great marketplaces of the world,” says Pini. “Un-designed, un-curated, unshackled, allowed to evolve, spill, and be messy.”
Construction on the Kings Square redevelopment project began this month. It is slated for completion in early 2020.