Heritage Victoria has issued an interim protection order for Melbourne’s Federation Square designed by Lab Architecture Studio and Bates Smart, after it accepted a nomination for the place to be added to the Victorian Heritage Register.
The Victorian branch of the National Trust of Australia nominated it after “significant changes proposed at Federation Square” had been unveiled in the past year, including the planned demolition of the Yarra building to make way for a Foster and Partners-designed Apple flagship store and the construction of a Metro Tunnel entrance, designed by Hassell, Weston Williamson and Partners and Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners.
Federation Square will be protected for four months or until a permanent decision about its heritage status has been made.
In granting the interim protection order, the executive director of Heritage Victoria Steven Avery determined that “there may be a prima facie case for the inclusion of this place in the Victorian Heritage Register” and that “this place is under imminent threat from approved works to facilitate the Metro Tunnel at the CBD South Precinct that may detrimentally affect its cultural heritage significance.”
The nomination of the 16-year-old site, built in 2002, has drawn raised eyebrows from members of the Victorian government. Premier Daniel Andrews told media, “It’s not what I would necessarily call a heritage asset,” while tourism minister John Eren said, “It would be unprecedented to heritage list a site that is only 16 years old, and to do so could lead to significant implications for future projects.”
However, the age of a building is not one of the criteria for heritage listing under the Heritage Act 1995.
The Victorian Heritage Register includes other significant public places in Melbourne which were added to the register at a much younger age.
The National Gallery of Victoria, designed by Roy Grounds and opened on 20 August 1968, was added to the register on its 14th anniversary in 1982. At the same time, the Victorian Arts Centre, also designed by Roy Grounds, was added to the register even before the Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall) was opened in November 1982 and Theatres Building was opened in October 1984.
Federation Square is among the most awarded projects in the history of the Victorian chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. It received four state awards and a national award for urban design.
The National Trust’s heritage nomination also has the support of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. In a statement, the chair of its heritage committee, Charles Sowerwine, said, “Melbourne has long dreamt of a civic square that would be a public space at the heart of the city, offering a meeting place open to all. Federation Square has quickly established itself as the fulfillment of that dream. In architectural terms, it embodies a remarkably coherent example of late 20th-Century architecture. In civic terms, it has become a truly public civic square.
“Both designs for the Apple store will destroy its architectural coherence and alienate its public status.
“Listing would ensure that any proposals for significant change to the square would be subject to a proper public permit process, unlike the proposals for the Apple Store to date.”