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$40m addition to Vic Parliament House

Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design in collaboration with Taylor Cullity Lethlean have designed a new $40 million two-storey office building in the gardens of the Victorian Parliament House for members of parliament.

The building will replace an existing tennis court and a temporary structure, known as “the chook shed,” that was erected during the 1970s to provide additional office space for members of parliament. The old structure is said to be in a dilapidated state and discussions about its replacement have been ongoing for a number of years.

The pincer-shaped structure will be sunken behind Parliament House and will feature a rooftop garden with a path and a 1,250-square-metre courtyard to assimilate the building with its garden surroundings. The landscaping in the rooftop garden will feature both native Australian plants and some areas of lawn.

“The landscape and the architecture are definitely very intertwined in this project and it’s also incredibly site specific,” said Catherine Duggan, senior associate at Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design.

“In order to get the shape that we have, we had to respond to the site conditions. It’s been quite an interesting process to work through because you can’t come to it with preexisting ideas – you’ve got to work with what’s there.”

The 19th-century gardens behind Parliament House were partly designed by landscape gardener William Guilfoyle, who is known for designing Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

$40m addition to Vic Parliament House

Image: Courtesy of Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design

The 4,000-square-metre project contains offices for around 100 members of parliament. The offices are organized in clusters in order to accommodate the needs of the MPs, and each office has an operable window and a view out onto either the courtyard or the gardens.

Peter Elliott said the practice’s past experiences working on public and institutional buildings on highly valued sites around Melbourne helped inform the project.

“As a practice, we’ve learnt a clever way to get new architecture within such special settings, to bring something new but also build upon the great strengths that are already given to us,” he said.

“That’s like this situation. We’ve got an incredible setting, whether it’s the spires of St Patrick’s Cathedral looming up at you or the back of the parliament building or the garden itself, so the strategy to embed the building into the landscape is one we’ve used before on a smaller scale. It’s not like it’s a radical idea but it has great resonance.”

The building has been designed with a 5 Star Green Star rating and incorporates a range of measures to boost its sustainable attributes. The practice is investigating using a geo-exchange system. The sunken position of the building and its rooftop garden will also increase its energy efficiency. The interiors will have a 6 Star Green Star rating and there is a strong focus on sourcing materials locally, preferably within Victoria.

“We’re very clear about the idea of bringing the client along. The project had to have a strong narrative and the narrative is about the three themes of a companion building, a building in a garden and a connected building,” Elliott said.

The project has been strongly influenced by the nearby Yuncken Freeman Architects’ 1969 Cardinal Knox Centre project, which was similarly embedded in order to reduce its impact on existing buildings.

The project has bipartisan support and has been submitted for heritage approval. The project is likely to be completed by December 2017.

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