Melbourne revises urban design guide to stop ‘spreadsheets in the sky’


It’s one of Australia’s favorite cities to explore on foot, but Melbourne lawmakers believe the city could perform even better after a major overhaul of design regulations.

This week, Victorian Town Planning Minister Richard Wynne approved the new Central Melbourne Design Guide which aims to rethink the outdated urban design requirements applying to the Central City and Southbank.

The main design axes of the document are:

  • Parking in underground buildings
  • Minimize the impact of ground-level building services, such as fire control rooms, air conditioning vents, electrical substations and waste areas
  • Less than 40% of the ground floor of a building occupied by building services to reduce the facades that turn their backs to the street
  • Broadening of the basic retail requirement for 80% of active facades on streets
  • New requirements to incorporate good design from the first step of the planning process and in particular encourage well thought out and resolved design details for lower levels of new buildings.

This is the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design requirements since the 1990s and, according to Deputy Mayor Nicholas Reece, will protect the streets from more “uncharacteristic facades” and “ugly towers that are nothing more than spreadsheets in the sky ”.

“Melbourne has some fantastic buildings that are innovative and contribute to world class streets, but lately there have been too many examples of failures,” he said.

“Now there is no longer an excuse for unappealing and unimaginative lower-level building interfaces, forcing pedestrians to stare at parking lots, monotonous glass panels or ugly building services. “

“This is what better reconstruction looks like, it’s a revolution for the city at eye level, it’s about drawing a line and saying from now on Melbourne has to aim higher.” “

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