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    World-class firms discuss design innovation and legacy in Melbourne

    Stephanie Stefanovic

    Architects from six international firms have travelled to Australia to present their design concepts for the Southbank by Beulah competition. A&D asked the architects how they generate innovation in their designs and what kind of legacy they would like to leave in Melbourne. 

    Six international firms, including Coop Himmelb(l)au, MAD Architects, MVRDV, OMA, UNStudio and Bjarke Ingels Group, have partnered with a local Australian firm to develop a design concept for Melbourne’s BMW Southbank site. Australian partner firms include Fender Katsalidis Architects, Architectus, Elenberg Fraser, Woods Bagot, Cox Architecture and Conrad Gargett. 

    “Our vision for the site is to create a landmark that innovates and redefines the way the built environment responds to how Melburnians and visitors live, work and interact,” says Beulah International executive director Adelene Teh.

    INNOVATION

    With this in mind, A&D asked the architects how they generate innovation in their work. 

    “We always study the site from different points of view – from a sociological point of view, an architectural point of view, demographic, etc.," says Marta Pozo, director at MVRDV Asia.

    “[With] all this data and information you get, you end up with new interpretations. So it’s not that you look for innovation per se. It’s not an idea that comes from anywhere. It’s part of the process [and] … comes from research and exploration.” 

    Sander Versluis, senior architect at UNStudio, agrees that looking at a design from different perspectives is key. 

    “Innovation in work is created by broadening the network outside of your given set field. So we look at and compare to other fields around us to get ideas, motivation and innovation from that side and see where solutions might fit for other purposes that could actually help architecture,” says Versluis. 

    Yosuke Hayano, principal partner at MAD Architects feels it is important to look to the past and think about how it could influence the future.

    “We look back at the past – how did people use this architecture, how did they react to the urban space. Then we bring in a contemporary architecture language to bring the design a little bit further into the future,” says Hayano. 

    “Rather than trying to stuff newness down the throat of a project, we really try to look and listen and see where this is going, what is the key criteria, what key issues haven’t been addressed and how they could be addressed,” adds Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG. 

    “Once you really have a need, then you have the energy and the fuel to come up with a new way of addressing it.” 

    LEAVING A LEGACY

    With the Southbank development expected to be a landmark destination in Melbourne, A&D also asked the firms what kind of legacy they would like to leave.

    “In this project you really feel the responsibility,” says Pozo.

    “This is a site that needs some kind of trigger to activate it. The legacy we would like to leave is to give people something that they love. In the end, it is the people who work and live around here that will judge if the architecture is good or bad. We hope to do something of significance.”

    “I think the site we’re looking at could really hold the key to solving the [problems with the] urban pedestrian realm of Southbank,” adds Ingels.

    “Southbank has seen a tremendous amount of development but somehow the urban space and the liveliness of the street has not at all followed. There might be a lot of people working there, living there and sleeping there, but they’re not really filling the streets. I think what we can do with this project is really animate Southbank boulevard and mitigate the barrier that City Road really is.

    “We went running around the neighbourhood and I almost lost one of my partners on City Road – there’s a lot of traffic. City Road serves a function but maybe it can be done in a way that is more conductive to public life. This project has incredible potential to be the key that unlocks the true potential of Southbank.” 

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