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‘What I would change’: Federation Square’s architect hits back at ‘sad’ criticism


Federation Square is being described as a “sad” place by no less than Victoria’s Planning Minister.

Days after the Apple store project was knocked on the head, Planning Minister Richard Wynne isn’t mincing his words, declaring to The Age that the civic centre “wither away” if nothing is done.

He says the square is “pretty sad” any time outside weekends.

Mr Wynne told The Age that outside “anchor” attractions such as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square lacks attractions.

A hearing is underway into whether the square should be placed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Donald Bates, director of LAB Architecture Studio, which was the company behind the award-winning design, told 3AW Breakfast he doesn’t think the square is “sad”.

“But I do think it requires some support and revitalisation,” he told Kate and Quarters, filling in for Ross and John.

For that reason he fears heritage listing, because it could dictate that “what it is now is what it always should be”.

“The architectural design was more dynamic than that,” he said.

“It allowed for changes and alterations as people’s way of using the space changed, as the city itself changes.”

So what needs to change?

“The south commercial building needs to be activated,” Mr Bates said.

“When it was originally designed we thought it might have been a bookstore or something.

“I know the City of Melbourne is changing its library at Flinders Lane — this would be a great space for a public library.

“I personally think the commercial tenancy, the food and beverage, need a big revamp; I don’t think they’re representative of the innovation and new concepts that Melbourne and CBD are known about.

“Fed Square is a bit ordinary in terms of what it has to offer.”

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