SHoP Architects and Woods Bagot are collaborating on Collins Arch, a $1.3 billion public space project that will transform a Melbourne city block into a highly activated urban precinct.

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Comprising an entire city block of Melbourne’s central business district, Collins Arch will create a new epicentre, linking Collins Street to a network of dynamic spaces back to the Yarra River.

Part of this includes a new, tree lined public park on Market Street, which will be connected to the development’s publicly accessible and occupiable space via a large amphitheatre. Construction of interconnected 164m dual towers – whose footprint will occupy less than the public open space – is also more than mid-way and is expected to be complete by late 2019.

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Inspecting the progress on site last week with SHoP Architects founding principal Bill Sharples, Woods Bagot principal Kate Frear says the building’s ambitious program – 184 apartments, a new five-star hotel to be operated by W Hotel, 49,447sqm of WELL-rated offices and 950sqm of ground floor retail – has been addressed through the composition of the vertical stacking.

“We’ve optimised each floor plate and each typology to emancipate half of the site back to the city as public open space,” says Frear. 

“Through a huge engineering feat, we’ve unified the program which ties the whole scheme together and enables all-important sunlight to reach deeply into the site and into the building. The public space is defined by how people will move through the building, and from the top down. The building program at ground level completely informs what happens above.”

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Key to the design is the fact that there are no roofs, only terraces. From the open crown at the apex, the building cascades down as a series of spectacular, stepped terraces allowing for most of the building program to be habitable by humans or plants.

Sharples is confident Collins Arch will play a critical role in reconnecting the Melbourne CBD to the Yarra River and Southbank.

“Using the combined knowledge of what our studios have learned from work in cities around the world, we are creating the first true mixed-use building in Australia, with greatly expanded public spaces to be enjoyed by Melbourne’s residents. Collins Arch will help complete the transformation of the surrounding area into a vibrant urban community, further contributing to the city’s world-class image,” he says.

Increasing connectivity, activating the western grid of Melbourne CBD’s and creating a globally renowned destination for one of the world’s most liveable cities were key drivers in the design process. With striking dual towers connected by a sky bridge, the form of Collins Arch will be instantly recognisable and have a significant place on Melbourne’s skyline, according to developers Cbus Property and ISPT.