Opposition to Apple in Melbourne

 John Hill
4. January 2018
Aerial rendering of proposed store (Image: Federation Square)
Apple's plan for a global flagship store at Melbourne's Federation Square, unveiled last month, is being met by opposition, due in part to the proposed plan's demolition of one of the buildings in the 15-year-old project.
Lab Architecture Studio, alongside Bates Smart, designed Federation Square after winning a design competition in 1996. Completed in 2002, the 8.8-acre project was built over a railway with nine cultural and commercial buildings around a central square. With their angular forms and fractal-pattern facades, the project was controversial at the time, but over the years it has become a public space that many residents of Melbourne cherish. Some of these residents, banded together as Citizens of Melbourne against Apple Federation Square, want to halt the demolition of one component of Federal Square so it's not replaced by an out-of-place Apple store addition designed by Foster + Partners.
Rendering of Foster + Partners design playing down the Federation Square context (Image: Apple)
Apple Store Federation Square would occupy the spot that is now the Yarra Building, named for the nearby Yarra River and currently occupied by the Koorie Heritage Trust, which celebrates the Aboriginal culture of Southeastern Australia through exhibitions and educational programs. In Federation Square's announcement from 20 December 2017, which anticipates a number of oppositional concerns through its FAQ (Isn’t this development just the corporatisation of public space? Why isn’t this building in the same style as the other buildings in Fed Square?), they explain that the Koorie Heritage Trust will will be relocated to "a better position in Federation Square at no cost to the Trust."

In terms of architecture, Federation Square asserts that "Fed Square’s lead architect Donald Bates and the Victorian Government architect Jill Garner have been involved in the planning and consideration of this project and have both endorsed the proposed design." There is also mention of improved accessibility and a smaller scale with the replacement building, but there is no indication of Lab's say in the decision nor if Federation Square is considered a cohesive assemblage rather than a collection of buildings to be trimmed at will.
Existing condition with the Yarra Building right of center (Photo: Wiikimedia Commons)
Yet one question among the FAQ stands out above the rest: "Why wasn’t the public given an opportunity to comment on the proposal before Government approval?" The answer: "The Government has deemed this to be a project of state significance because of its wide-ranging social and economic benefits for Victoria and therefore the Minister for Planning exercised his powers to exempt a planning scheme amendment from public notice as it is in the broad interests of Victoria to do so." 

Aside from the fact cities have a hard time saying "No" to Apple, the social benefits are more public space in the square and room for public events, a better connection to the Yarra River precinct, and lots more tourists than the 10 million that flock to Federation Square annually. The economic benefits include "hundreds of new local jobs" and timing of the project to the construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project, so as to reduce disruption at Federation Square.

​If the Citizens of Melbourne against Apple Federation Square's efforts are not successful (and all signs point to them not having much of an impact), construction of Apple Federation Square will commence in 2019 and open the following year.

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