As was predicted, French-architect Jean Nouvel’s first Melbourne project has sailed through Victorian planning.

The 70-storey mixed use development, designed with Australia’s Architectus, received approval from the Victorian Government on Saturday, alongside a glowing review from the Minister for Planning.

Despite its plot ratio, which at 29:1 is in exceedance of CBD planning controls, the decision to approve the $700 million project for 383 La Trobe Street isn’t surprising when you consider the strong support it received from the Melbourne City Council back in September.  

The council’s report to planning expressed strong support for the project and the waiving of its plot ratio on account of its contribution to the public domain.

The planning minister has now agreed with the council and says it has been approved because the building meets the requirement of delivering public benefit and contribution.

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.

It will include an arcade accessible from La Trobe Street, featuring art installations in the form of digital screens on the walls and ceiling; a new laneway with retail and restaurant space and giving pedestrian access to Elizabeth Street; and the brick boundary wall of the heritage listed former Royal Mint site to be publicly accessible with the new building designed to frame the wall.

The Office of the Victorian Government Architect commended the proposal as “a strong and beautiful piece of architecture, offering a strong contemporary contribution to the city”.

Describing the La Trobe Street development as a truly creative project that would also deliver much-needed hotel rooms for the city and a good mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, Minister for Planning Richard Wynne commented that the approval showed how their CBD controls could deliver a better outcome for the city by encouraging quality.


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.