Situated at the historical end of Collins Street in Melbourne, 623 Collins Street by Carr is a 42-story mixed-used development offering a new and meaningful architecture that enhances past identities in a contemporary way.
The site includes two heritage-listed buildings adjacent to the proposal, the State Savings Bank and the Batman’s Hill Hotel. The architectural response to these buildings provides the point of departure for the design of 623 Collins Street, with Carr collaborating closely with heritage consultant Lovell Chen to develop a response in line with the form and scale of the historic surroundings.
The constrained footprint of the site and its heritage buildings require a precise and careful level of planning. While many more conventional mixed-use projects rely on expansive ground planes, the small footprint here necessitated a different approach, with the architects looking vertically to accommodate residential apartments, restaurants, a hotel, and a rooftop bar in an effortless way that suggests an abundance of space.
The design comprises three podiums and two tower forms. Lifting the towers leaves the ground plane free to extend into the building, expanding notions of threshold between public and public space and encouraging exploration and discovery.
The design also ensures various uses are afforded independent identities within the ground plan but invites all engagement and activation. A central in-between space acts as a pedestrian entry point for most users, ending in a bifurcation towards the restaurant, office, bar, and hotel. The residential entry is more directed towards residents than visitors, with a sense of exclusivity where it meets the street.
The towers, set back from Spencer and Collins Street, offer a sensitive interface with the heritage building by incorporating a repeating square-format block that forms a unifying and monumental screen. The vertical solid elements are counterbalanced with a sense of scale promoted by the use of recurring square detail motifs in the screen perforation. Ideas of permanence and privacy interact, with the screen wrapping the podium the hotel podium and affording refuge and respite while still engaging architecturally with the street level.
The perforated screen also serves the functional purpose of controlling and filtering light and views from internal space - particularly the private realms of the hotel rooms and rooftop terrace - while also forming a strong identity that allows the heritage buildings to be celebrated. Contrasting with the solidity of the masonry podium, the tower façade and its filigree pattern is light and playful.
“You don’t want the end user to see there’s a complexity to the site. It’s designed to feel natural and effortless. You need simultaneously separate and combine the user experience so that neither interferes. It’s this element that makes 623 Collins Street a challenge, but a very interesting one at the.” Says David Brooks, Associate Director, Carr.