The regeneration of Melbourne’s iconic Rialto precinct has established a new urban presence for the famous skyscraper and its plaza while paying tribute to the rich heritage of its surrounds.
Designed by Woods Bagot, the regeneration takes the form of 6,000sqm of new office, retail, food and beverage space. The idea was to create continuity along Collins Street and spearhead a new generation of mixed-use space in the precinct.
First opened in 1986, Rialto was once the tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere, standing at 253m. The building also included a large, dominating podium that, while typical to 1980s Australian architecture, did not invite people to enter and engage with the building.
While Rialto always had a strong identity from a distance, this didn’t quite translate on the ground, according to Woods Bagot principal Peter Miglis.
“Previously the entrance of Rialto was set way back from Collins Street,” says Miglis.
“Although Rialto is a commercial building, the ground space is civic and our idea was to create a public interface by extending the workforce for Rialto’s commercial tenants into a social networking precinct in the forecourt, and inviting visitors to enter and experience the space.”
Getting rid of Rialto’s large, uninviting podium was a key element of the regeneration. Removing the podium enabled regeneration in three forms: new commercial lobbies; a public plaza forecourt; and low-scale podium buildings to Collins and King Streets.
According to Woods Bagot, the sheltered landscape plaza between the lobby and the new podium buildings creates flexible public space that simultaneously serves as a retail space and as a forecourt entry to the lobby towers. The plaza is covered with a sculptural, self-supporting grid-shell structure with “triangular tessellated geometry [that] mediates between the rotated axis of the towers and the podium buildings that conform to the city grid”.
The new podium buildings now define the streetscape to Collins and King Street, complementing the size and form of the surrounding heritage buildings. They also add an additional 6,000sqm of workspace to the existing 84,000sqm of office space, while fostering a connection with the existing tower.
Adding to the area’s retail culture and creating a public interface that invites corporate tenants and consumers alike has both solidified Rialto as a destination and transformed Melbourne’s mid-town.