Opposition to a new purpose-built Apple Store in Melbourne’s Federation Square is growing. Opponents say it will dominate the area and will be a permanent advertisement for Apple in a public space.
The building, which will be very first purpose-built Apple Store in Australia, is planned for the banks of the Yarra River on the site of the existing Yarra Building. It has been criticised for being architecturally inappropriate and for overriding existing planning regulations.
A petition against the store has gained nearly 50,000 signatures, and as details become better known it has attracted increased criticism from architects and community groups.
Victoria’s ALP Government announced the new development in the shadow of the Christmas break. The State Government fast-tracked its approval, overriding a number of City of Melbourne planning regulations. Minister for Planning Richard Wynne has justified the process, citing “wide-ranging social and economic benefits” in order to circumvent the usual public consultation process.
The Age newspaper has disclosed that Mr Wynne opposed the development in Cabinet, as did a number of other senior ministers including Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings and Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley.
If the Government hoped that the timing of the announcement deflect criticism, it did not work. The Australian Institute of Architects, the Planning Institute of Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects have written a letter criticising the project.
“We jointly write to voice our concern over the lack of a clear and transparent planning process with no opportunity for community consultation for such a significant development in Melbourne’s most iconic public square.
“Collectively, we advocate for the deep politicisation of the planning process in such a decision only set a precedent for poor planning decisions in the future. We believe that such a significant proposal this publicly owned civic space should have gone through a transparent competitive process to ensure the most suitable tenants were selected.”
Other architects say that the proposed new structure is completely out of character with existing buildings in Federation Square, which are characterised by dark colours and unconventional shapes. The Apple Store, designed by Foster + Partners, would be of an entirely different design (see picture).
Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, a prominent critic of the new building, says its radically different architecture would “converts cultural and civic space to commercial.”
It seems that the Victorian Government has underestimated opposition to the plan. With and election due later this year, Apple’s grand new structure will be a major issue.