Dutch architects UNStudio’s dizzying imagination shines through in their proposals for the Beulah Southbank mixed-use tower competition, which boasts the novel design element of a ‘Green Spine’ – a plant-filled network of platforms, terraces, and verandas that conjoins two towers. Aiming to establish a fresh, iconic destination in Melbourne’s Southbank area, the project draws inspiration from Melbourne’s unique urban landscaping and a desire to bridge the public/private divides in cosmopolitan hubs.UNStudio has created the multifaceted Green Spine by splitting open the potential single mass at its core, forming two separate high-rise buildings. This creates a unique visual effect: the buildings seem to be revealing the “almost geological strata of their core layers as they rise above a light-filled canyon,” according to the architects’ statement. As a result, the towers are able to offer wide-ranging views from every side of the towers and strengthen the contextual links of the pedestrians and residents experiencing Southbank.
“On a local level, the aim of the design is to provide porousness at street level,” UNStudio stated, “whilst simultaneously connecting the upper floors with the streetscape by expanding the public realm.”The towers employ two facade types, the Green Spine Facade and the Glass Facade, which are entwined in a symbiotic relationship. The Green Spine assures thermal comfort, air quality, and noise absorption, while the Glass Facade maintains window-to-wall ratios, recessed balconies/windows, and external shading fins to limit heat loss and control solar gain. At street level, the terraced podium and the rooftop park are open to both residents and visitors, enabling an extension of the Southbank public realm. The rooftop park is framed by tall trees and fern gardens, an extension of the green space that defines the structure’s aesthetic. The terraced podium, meanwhile, will be fully integrated within the existing Melbourne cultural and commercial hub, offering a marketplace, retail and entertainment, art installations, a BMW experience centre and a host of other programmes, rendering the towers a city in itself.
Through their dynamic range of features and seamless integration into Southbank, the Green Spine towers are defined by complementary indoor-outdoor spatial frames that create interesting relationships between nature, public space and culture.