Apple has seriously misjudged the cultural significance of Federation Square to the people of Melbourne and would save itself a lot of hassle by looking elsewhere to build its new $50 million megastore.
This is the response from prominent Melbourne architect Michael Smith to news circulating that negotiations are underway between the tech giant and Federation Square's management to demolish one of the buildings in the square to make way for a brand new Apple store.
Both Fairfax and News Corp are both reporting that Apple wishes to take over the site of the Yarra building, a mixed retail and commercial building on the square’s southern edge, demolish it, and then erect a new $50 million see-through glass structure that will house its first Asia Pacific stand-alone megastore.
It also reported that the negotiations have been lengthy and secretive, indicating that Federation Square's management and the state government are at least entertaining the idea of selling the building and land to Apple.
But according to Smith, Apple’s efforts would be better invested in finding a more suitable location for its megastore that isn’t held so close to the people of Melbourne.
“Federation Square has become every bit as important to Melbourne’s 21st century identity as the National Gallery of Victoria or the MCG,” he told Architecture & Design.
“It is extraordinary that any government would even remotely entertain a bid to demolish part of Melbourne’s most successful urban public space and most iconic piece of contemporary architecture in order to facilitate a glorified retail premises.”
“Melbournians will not stand by and watch this happen. Apple has seriously misjudged the cultural significance of this space and would be wise to pursue a more appropriate location”
The Yarra building sits as an important connection between the Yarra River terraces and the public square
In 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded a patent to Apple for the design of their flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York. It applies to the above-ground glass cube, made from 15 glass panels with minimal steel fixings. Pictured: Apple store, New York, 767 Fifth Ave.
HOUSE OF CARDS
Smith notes that one of the great strengths of Federation Square is in the power and unity of its collection of buildings, and that by taking away one would do extraordinary damage to the square as a whole.
This opinion is shared by architect Peter Maddison who told News Corp that Apple’s typical big glass box store would not be a good fit for Federation Square, which was designed by London’s LAB Architecture Studio in collaboration with local architects Bates Smart as a tightknit collection of buildings and public space.
“I shudder to think they’re going to strip all that away and put a big three-storey glass facade imposed within that quite cohesive composition,” he said
“What I really worry about is Lab Architecture’s work being blasted away and a big glass box going in there. That’s the antithesis of what Lab’s architecture work is — it’s all about finely resolved detailing and complex facade treatments.”
Completed in 2002, the Federation Square mixed-use precinct has transcended early criticism to become one of the most popular destinations for local events and gatherings, as well as tourism.
An annual report from Fed Square Pty Ltd shows it earned $7.2 million for the state government in 2016.