The winning design by Hassell and Herzog & de Meuron for Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station is likely to be dumped by the new Victorian Labor Government, reaffirming fears that the proposal never stood a chance of being realised.
According to media reports, Premier Daniel Andrews all but ruled out plans for the station’s redesign, saying they were a “colouring-in competition at taxpayers’ expense” by the former government “in order to get some pretty cheap headlines”.
Hassell and Herzog & de Meuron were named winners of an international design competition for Flinders Street Station, which was completed in 1910 and forms the centre of Melbourne’s railway network. The principal design characteristic of their plans is a series of vaulted latticework arches to roof the station’s platforms and tracks.
An amphitheatre, plaza, marketplace and art gallery were also part of the proposal, and the collaborating architects took home half a million in prize money for winning the competition. This was in addition to the $930,000 paid by the Napthine Government to Hassell for the business case, according to state contracts.
Their proposal, which was chosen over designs submitted by John Wardle Architects + Grimshaw, NH Architecture, and BVN Donovan Hill with Zaha Hadid Architecture, would cost approximately $1 billion to $1.5 billion to be built.
Hassell's website notes that the Napthine Government sponsored a A$1 million international competition for the redesign of the station for the next 100 years.
However even after the conclusion of the competition, the Napthine government was unwilling to promise funding for the design, and had ruled out selling the station in order to finance its construction.
“Denis Napthine spent $2 million of taxpayers’ money on a project the Coalition never intended to follow through on,” said Government spokesman Chris Reilly.
Treasurer Tim Pallas adds that the redevelopment would cost more than it would have gained.
“The previous government put millions of dollars into a design competition, we were quite critical of it when we were in Opposition and we said that design competition didn't accord with the community's priorities,” Pallas told the ABC.
“It would be an inordinate burden upon taxpayers.”
Concepts of the winning designsby Hassell and Herzog & de Meuron. Images: Hassell
The comments have come after the Victorian opposition demanded it outline plans to maintain the iconic station, particularly since Labor was elected on its promise to improve the city’s public transport system.
“You can't be truly committed to improving Melbourne's public transport system without being committed to the upgrade of one of Melbourne's busiest train stations,” opposition MP John Pesutto said.
“In government, the Coalition invested a significant amount of money to get the project going and ... remained committed to the project in anticipation of it starting in the coming years.”
Labor’s Financial Statement, which was released two days before last year’s state election, had no mention of any financing to restore the Station. According to Premier Andrews, his government was not elected to “spend billions of dollars on that project” but to focus on different priorities. He has, however, conceded that the station requires maintenance issues.
A final decision has not yet been made.