Did good design make Federation Square a success?

Melbourne has had a long and sorry history in its search for a successful city square, but it eventually all came good when Federation Square was opened to instant acclaim and popularity in 2002.

So why do some places like Fed Square have “buzz” but others, like the previous attempt at a city square, seem lacklustre? And why is Docklands, for example, unable to attract visitors in large numbers or create a sense of excitement and vibrancy like Fed Square?

A common explanation is design and Fed Square is indeed a wonderful building with a grand sense of occasion. Good design can certainly make things work better and poor design can subvert the best of intentions. But design rarely “makes” a project successful. Buildings like Bilbao and the Sydney Opera House are the exception rather than the rule.

Let me advance a handful of alternative hypotheses for why Fed Square has been so successful in attracting users and establishing itself as an iconic Melbourne landmark. None of these by themselves is sufficient but combined they provide a compelling explanation. Read the rest of this entry »


Windsor Hotel redevelopment

I’m hard pressed to see what opponents are concerned about with the proposed Windsor Hotel redevelopment. It conforms with the Planning Scheme, it was recommended by the panel and it’s supported by Heritage Victoria (with conditions).

The panel says the redevelopment is necessary for the continued viability and restoration of the historically and architecturally valuable parts of the hotel. It will add more hotel rooms to the city centre, which is good for business and tourism and therefore for jobs and living standards. Read the rest of this entry »