Melbourne’s Federation Square and its Heritage Discontents, 1994-2002
Source TitleFabrications: the journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
PublisherInforma UK Limited
University of Melbourne Author/sLesh, James
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsLesh, J. (2020). Melbourne’s Federation Square and its Heritage Discontents, 1994-2002. Fabrications, pp.1-30. https://doi.org/10.1080/10331867.2020.1827545.
Access StatusThis item is currently not available from this repository
From its 1994 conception to its 2002 realisation, Federation Square generated an intense public dispute between groups associated with architecture and conservation. Created by London-based LAB Architecture Studio following a design competition and located at the southern gateway to central Melbourne, Federation Square was a notable example of late-twentieth-century public architecture. It functioned as a civic and national monument and incorporated a sophisticated design response to its immediate physical and broader symbolic contexts. However, conservation activists the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) opposed Federation Square and specifically “the shard”, a structure which partially obstructed historical southern view lines into the city and St Paul’s Cathedral (1891). Rather than aiming to prevent demolition and conserve historic fabric, the National Trust sought to shape the future impacts of this experimental architectural response to the urban historic environment. Progressive sections of Melbourne’s design community rallied around LAB Architecture Studio because the integrity of architecture appeared to be at stake. Civic populism and political opportunism generated a final negotiated outcome. This article argues that this major public space architectural project was shaped by an expansive urban politics of heritage revealing broader concerns about the role of architecture and conservation in Melbourne at the time.
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