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Australia’s future tallest tower gets go-ahead in Melbourne

Reaching New Heights Down Under

Australia’s future tallest tower gets go-ahead in Melbourne

Antipodean twist: One of Southbank Beulah’s vegetation-clad "Green Spine" towers will be tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. (Norm LI/Courtesy UNStudio, Cox Architecture)

The twisty, plant-clad skyscrapers of Southbank by Beulah, a vertical mixed-use development planned for the Melbourne waterfront, have received the formal green light from Australia’s Victorian State Government after garnering enthusiastic support from the Future Melbourne Committee last month. Construction on the dual towers, collectively dubbed “the Green Spine,” is expected to kick off next year and wrap up in 2026. A project of Melbourne developer Beulah International, the self-described  “vertical mini-metropolis” was designed by Amsterdam-headquartered UNStudio in close collaboration with venerable Australian firm Cox Architecture,

“Today is a day to celebrate on many fronts with the planning approval signalling a momentous achievement for all involved. We are honoured that Southbank by Beulah has received unanimous support for its design,” said Caroline Bos, principal and co-founder of UNStudio. “From the initial concept to one that has evolved into a groundbreaking global collaborative project, the outcome is an exciting prospect, not only for the project team but for Melbourne, reaffirming its reputation as the world’s most liveable city.”

Reaching 1,197 feet, the lankier of Southbank by Beulah’s two skyline-redefining towers will stand as the tallest skyscraper in Australia, a country already replete with very tall buildings in addition to very big things. The title is currently held by the Q1 tower, which looms over the Gold Coast at 1,058 feet. Other supertalls in Melbourne include Australia 108 (1,039 feet) and the Eureka Tower (975 feet). The shorter tower at Southbank by Beulah tops out at a still-impressive 827 feet.

rendering of an in-development skyscraper in Melbourne
Functioning as a self-contained mini-city, Southbank by Beulah’s towers will feature ‘experiential retail’ at its base. (Norm Li/Courtesy UNStudio, Cox Architecture)

In addition to its record-setting height of one its towers, foliage-filled balconies will be a defining feature of Southbank by Beulah’s “twisted terraced forms.” As UNStudio writes: “The spine twists into a series of outdoor spaces and green devices along the facades of the two towers, paying homage to Melbourne’s title of the Garden City, symbolically bridging the iconic Royal Botanic Gardens with Melbourne’s Arts Precinct.” In addition to the greenery-filled apartment terraces, the residential tower will also have pocket parks peppered throughout a quartet of sky-high neighborhoods, which will “provide residents with a sense of community and a place to relax, before culminating in a landscaped journey to the publicly accessible rooftop sky garden.”

Rising from a parcel currently occupied by a BMW dealership in Melbourne’s formerly industrial Southbank district, the development will encompass 2.9 million square feet of largely residential space complemented by commercial offices, retail shops and restaurants, a 220-room “five-star urban resort,” health and wellness facilities, a crèche, arts and culture venues, and more. Over 78,000 square feet will be dedicated to vertiginous public green space including the aforementioned pocket parks and rooftop sky garden.

a rendering of a vertical development in Melbourne, Australia
Victorian state officials are confident that Southbank by Beulah will pump money into the economy following the coronavirus pandemic. (Norm Li/Courtesy UnStudio, Cox Architecture)
illustration of a mixed-use vertical community planned for melbourne
Pocket parks, sky gardens, and lushly planted terraces help Melbourne’s upcoming Green Spine live up to its name. (Norm Li/Courtesy UNStudio, Cox Architecture)

“We sometimes hear people in this city say, ‘Melbourne has never seen anything like it,’” said Nicholas Reece, chair of the City of Melbourne’s Planning Portfolio, in a statement: “That is often said with a little bit of exaggeration but think we can confidently say ‘Melbourne has never seen anything like Beulah.’”

The Green Spine scheme was selected as the winner in a 2018 international competition that pitted UNStudio and Cox Architecture against five other international design teams headed by the likes of OMA, Bjarke Ingels Group, MVRDV, MAD Architects, and Coop Himmelb(l)au.

Three additional large-scale projects in Melbourne were also approved alongside Southbank by Beulah as part of a construction and development-powered economic rebounding initiative headed by the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce. The idea is that these major projects will provide a billion-dollar-plus jumpstart to the regional economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, and ensure the health of Victoria real estate development in the long-term. Southbank by Beulah alone will employ 4,700 workers throughout the construction phases.

“This taskforce will help ensure the building and development industry is a driving force for Victoria’s economy through this pandemic and beyond,” said Victoria’s planning and housing minister Richard Wynne in a statement. “It will help deliver existing projects more efficiently and assist new projects to get off the ground faster.”