World-class wonder

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Domenic Schiafone


Domenic Schiafone


Perspective 2022 vol 1
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Multiple design challenges during the development of the $1.25 billion Collins Arch project tested the talents of Cbus Property’s project team – but the result is a mixed-use masterpiece.

Boasting two 40-level tapering towers linked by a 14-metre long, eight-floor sky bridge, Collins Arch is a brilliant addition to Australia’s cultural capital. But achieving an ambitious vision required collaboration, commitment and a razor-sharp focus on costs.

Cbus Property has set its sights on net zero emissions by 2030, and this commitment to sustainability was embedded into the building’s design.

The Collins Arch precinct brings together 184 luxury residences, a five-star hotel with 294 guest rooms, 49,000 sqm of premium office space, and a colonnade of shops, bars and restaurants. Resort-style residences enjoy a pool, sky garden and breathtaking views over the city.

“Bordered by exclusive retail, dining and coffee experiences, the ground plane of Collins Arch is the unique and versatile meeting point between the east and west towers,” says Cbus Property’s Chief Executive Officer, Adrian Pozzo.

“The Melbourne City Council and Victorian Government agreed to close off half of Market Street to vehicle traffic to create a park precinct. Once approved, in collaboration with the City of Melbourne, we landscaped 1,900 sqm of open space in the middle of the city, creating Melbourne’s first park in almost 40 years,” Pozzo adds.

Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects won a design competition for Collins Arch in 2014, after Cbus Property sent out the call for a new landmark development on one of Melbourne’s most prestigious streets.

We knew this was not a normal project. There were many versions of the cost plan. We offered options and advice as design ideas arose – often before they appeared on a drawing.

Domenic Schiafone, Director, RLB

Kate Frear, Director at Woods Bagot, says the design optimised each floorplate and building use to return half the site to the city as public open space. It was a “huge engineering feat,” she says – one which “enables all-important sunlight to reach deeply into the site and into the building”.

The brief was ambitious from the outset: an iconic precinct that would set a new standard for mixed-use development in Australia. But icons aren’t always easy to bring to life, and the project team faced several planning setbacks before a sod was turned.

Potential overshadowing of the nearby Yarra River, and height and plot ratio restrictions, gave the project team many headaches. “We went back to the drawing board several times – and each time we had to start the cost planning, design and feasibility work from scratch,” says RLB Director Domenic Schiafone.

“Feeding construction costs into the feasibility process is an endless balancing act – if one area is off balance then the project won’t stack up financially,” Schiafone notes. RLB’s challenge was value management without cutting corners. “It’s about doing things smarter.”

In just one of many examples, back-of-house areas like plant rooms were economised to maximise every square metre of bankable space.

Collins Arch features high-performance glazing that floods the buildings with light, best-in-class end-of-trip facilities that encourage active transport and electric vehicle charging stations. These features, and many more, earned Collins Arch a 5 Star Green Star Design & As Built (Design Review) rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. What’s more, the innovative and integrated approach to sustainability will cut carbon emissions by around 25 per cent when compared with business-as-usual buildings.

Schiafone says RLB’s team entered the project with eyes wide open. “We knew this was not a normal project. There were many versions of the cost plan. We offered options and advice as design ideas arose – often before they appeared on a drawing.”

Success demands a symbiotic relationship between all the consultants on the team. “There were some weeks when we’d go backwards and forwards with different options until all hours of the morning. We all felt tremendous satisfaction in finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Combining residential, commercial and hotel uses brings extra layers of cost complexity, but RLB’s team relished the challenge.

“The building needed to work as one, but four separate design teams – responsible for the building fabric, commercial interior, residential interior and hotel fitout – were on site, all operating at a different pace. RLB’s cost plan needed contingency and flexibility so changes to design would not blow the budget,” Schiafone adds.

Today, Collins Arch stands proudly on Melbourne’s most prestigious street, bringing together luxurious living, future-forward offices and inspiring places for people. As SHoP Architects’ founding principal Bill Sharples notes, Collins Arch is “catalytically urban, public-spirited, and fresh” and will transform this part of Melbourne’s CBD into an “around-the-clock community”.

This article first appeared in Property Australia in August 2021.