French-architect Jean Nouvel’s first Melbourne project is expected to receive the backing of Melbourne City Council this week in its last sitting before the municipal elections.

His $700 million, 70-storey tower for 383 La Trobe Street, designed in conjunction with Australia’s Architectus, received a glowing review from the Council in its report to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning ahead of the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee meeting today.

In fact, the only contentious element of the tower, which is situated between the former Royal Mint and two residential towers, appears to be its plot ratio of 29:1 which exceeds the specified site plot ratio of 24:1. However, the Council report shows it would support a waiving of this exceedance on account of the project’s contribution to the public domain.

The majority of that contribution will come from the building’s podium which, next to the tower’s façade strategy, has received little attention. The five-storey podium form will provide for a variety of curated public, retail and hospitality based uses at ground level and 24/7 public access to cross connection through the site.


An Arcade with digital art projections, a Gallery that incorporates a neighbouring heritage wall from the Hellenic Museum and a public book exchange library are all planned for the space and add to the project’s claim to public benefit.

The Council suggests these provisions are deemed to exceed public contribution requirements for those seeking a plot ratio waiver as part of Amendment C270.


The tower’s west facade is a dark green lined and underlined by sky gardens and faces Flagstaff gardens

Dominating headlines about Nouvel’s first Melbourne project is his façade strategy for the essentially symmetrical rectilinear tower, which will be modulated and varied by four horizontal bands of skygarden and by a lattice-like façade treated differently on each face.

The rectangular prism’s four sides will incorporate four different colours, a variety of textures, and in true Nouvel style, a play with light, ‘seduction’, ‘mystery’, and even a hint of dematerialisation.

The façade colours are directly related to their orientation. The eastern façade will be a reflective light grey to match the neighbouring 36 storey Republic Tower and feature of stained glass motif based on a theatre curtain designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The west facade is a dark green lined and underlined by sky gardens that will form three or four bands and will face the Victorian Heritage listed former Royal Mint and current Hellenic Museum.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theatre at Taliesin is interpreted into the building’s eastern curtain wall

The tower crown is a play on dematerialisation and will dissolve into the sky

The northern and western façades will appear as a brick red and a Naples yellow respectively but Nouvel says that these colours will blur and change as you circulate the building and view the facades under different levels of light and aspects.

Nouvel says the tower will seek to seduce and create mystery for the onlooker, to make he or she ask questions about it, and that its materialisation will aid this strategy.

The question now is whether the tower will sail through planning as is expected. 

Images: Urban Melbourne