Decibel Architecture has proposed a daringly slender residential tower for a tiny triangular site in central Melbourne measuring only 173-square metres.
The site belongs to one of Australia’s oldest scientific research institutions, the Royal Society of Victoria (RSV).
In 2015, the organization ran an ideas competition for the site at the corner of La Trobe and Victoria Streets, after its previous tenant, the Bureau of Meteorology, vacated its tenancy after 107 years. The site is directly opposite the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, to the south.
Decibel Architecture (then Studio505), submitted six proposals, which included a drone “airport” and a museum of hovering, magnetized exhibits.
“I met with the president at the end of the expressions of interest process and I said, ‘I have an idea and I think it might actually make you some money,’” said Dylan Brady, who refers to himself as the “conductor” of Decibel Architecture.
His idea was in part inspired by Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, an event that made an enormous financial surplus, funding the creation of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and an educational trust for scholarships.
“I thought, why can’t we do something like and to create a sustainable future for the RSV and use all the science and technology and sustainability knowledge that we have to actually build something that bordered on the impossible,” he said.
The proposal would see a 362-metre-tall, high-end residential tower built on the site, which will house 60 whole-floor apartments, the sale of which would create an endowment fund for the RSV.
Decibel Architecture spent the past three years working with structure and wind engineers, financial experts, developers, planners and heritage consultants to test the proposal’s viability.
“We are working within an extraordinarily constrained site and we need to use our ingenuity to solve this problem.”
The proposed building, dubbed Magic Tower, is intended to become a beacon for science and technology in the city. It will be constructed from a series of structural tubes, essentially like the central lift shaft in a conventional tower.
“Our building is basically all shaft with punched holes,” Brady said.
Decibel Architecture also intends to create not only a net zero energy building but one that actually generates energy through solar glass on the building’s facade. It will also collect the rain water that falls on the facade for non-potable water use.
The RSV will also upgrade its current headquarters – a Joseph Reed-designed cottage adjacent to the proposed tower. In addition, 750 square metres of public space will be created on the site.
“The RSV also has an opportunity in the development to purchase at cost one or more of the floors in the tower in order to provide for them an asset portfolio to give them some ongoing income,” Brady said.
If it reaches 362-metres tall, the tower will not only be the tallest in Australia but also the most slender building in the world, with an effective slenderness ratio of 26.6 to one. The current most slender building is 111 West 57th Street in New York City by Shop Architects, which is due for completion in 2018.
However, the proposed height will exceed the 330-metre height limit for air safety regulations. In addition, the site falls within the World Heritage Environs Area buffer zone around the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. It has heritage overlays to protect views and vistas to the landmark.
“If we get to this height, awesome! If we have to come back, awesome! It’s still an extraordinary proposition,” Brady said.
“It’s really about pushing as far as we can into the unknown, into the impossible in order to come back to the possible.
“We’re at the beginning of a process of engaging formally and officially with the full consultant team and submissions to federal, state and local governments and heritage councils.
“All of the hurdles that we hope we’ve understood, we’re now lining them up to run down the road and see if we can clear them.”