Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell triumph
in Melbourne station competition

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

News: a team comprising Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Australian firm Hassell has won the high-profile competition to redesign Melbourne's iconic railway station at Flinders Street.

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

Seeing off competition from architects including Zaha Hadid and Grimshaw, Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell's proposals were selected by a panel of architects and experts as the preferred option for the overhaul of the nineteenth-century Flinders Street Station and its surrounding spaces, including the restoration of the iconic dome and clock tower.

The winning design includes the construction of a new barrel-vaulted roof structure that envelops the station and brings dappled light and ventilation onto both new and improved station concourses. The architects also plan to add a new public art gallery dedicated to oceanic and contemporary art, a public plaza, a marketplace, an amphitheatre and a permanent home for some of the city's cultural festival organisations.

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

Existing taxi ranks would be located to a more suitable location on Flinders Street, while the existing tram stop would be redesigned and a new cycle route would be inserted beneath the station in an old concourse, connecting with existing routes along the Yarra River.

"Our proposal respects the heritage, improves all aspects of the transport hub, and underscores its central civic nature with new cultural and public functions for all residents and visitors to Melbourne," says the design team on the competition website.

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

The judges praised the scheme for its "beautiful and compelling integration of aspects of the original station design" and supported the decision to keep the height down on the east side, but increase it to the west.

"The extended vaulted forms provide a distinctive branding for the city, their eastern elevation to Swanston Street imaginatively recalls the intended – but not executed – proposition by Fawcett and Ashworth [the architects of the existing station building] of a family of variously scaled vaults," they said. "At the same time, however, the language is clearly contemporary, underlined by the fact that the new line-up of vaults is bracketed by the pair of historic Flinders Street Station buildings facing the Swanston Street concourse."

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

They continued:" The main train hall offers a celebratory experience of rail travel; its light-weight structure promises a filigree of ever-changing dappled light while providing ventilation, shelter and way-finding. The vaulted form will appeal to the universal collective memory of the great station terminuses of the past".

The architects are awarded a $500,000 (£300,000) prize and the Victorian Government has two years to decide whether to proceed with the scheme.

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell

The same team was not the winner of the public vote, as proposals by Colombian architects Eduardo Velasquez, Manuel Pineda and Santiago Medina topped the poll on the competition website.

Their designs called for the addition of a public garden over the roof of the station, with glazed domes over the tops of platforms. See images of this project and the other shortlisted entries »

Flinders Street Station by Herzog & de Meuron and Hassell
Proposed site plan - click for larger image

Herzog & de Meuron also recently won a competition to design a a visual culture museum in Hong Kong's new West Kowloon Cultural District. See more architecture by Herzog & de Meuron »

Another recent design competition asked architects to consider the future of Grand Central Station in New York. See proposals by SOM, Foster + Partners and WXY Architecture »

Here's a summary of the scheme from the competition website:

Flinders Street Station Design Competition Winner

Overall Design Merit

Decades after the people of Melbourne first talked about "meeting under the clocks" at Flinders Street Station, the HASSELL + Herzog and de Meuron proposal updates it for the 21st Century, turning it from a place to hurry through to a destination.

The overall design merit of the proposal can be seen in a new, major public art gallery, public plaza, amphitheatre, marketplace, and a permanent home for arts and cultural festival organisations. But we have also delivered the glory of the first 19th Century design for Flinders Street Station.

Transport Function

Transport function is greatly improved, with new or improved concourses making it easier to get in and out. New weather-proof vaulted roofs flood the platforms with dappled, natural light and ventilation. Taxi ranks are relocated to Flinders Street and the tram stop between the station and Federation Square redesigned to improve the connection across St Kilda Road. A bike path under the station through the old western concourse links cycle ways on the river and Elizabeth Street.

Cultural Heritage and Iconic Status

The cultural heritage and iconic status of the station is protected, with the built fabric that most people are familiar with – the Flinders Street building and corner entrance pavilion – are both retained, and paintwork returned to the original colours.

The vaulted roofs that greatly improve the passenger experience are inspired by features of the original design that were never realised. The new elements, particularly the Oceanic and Contemporary Art Gallery, enhance the station’s iconic status.

Urban Design and Precinct Integration

Good urban design and precinct integration breathe new life into the city, stitching it together. The restored station and the new art gallery fill the missing link between the cultural precinct encompassing St Kilda Road and Federation Square with the old Customs House and the Immigration Museum on Flinders Street.

The station itself is better integrated with the city, the river and Federation Square. Distinctive and memorable architecture sits with significant civic space and high quality public amenity.

  • gabs

    It was never in doubt they would win!

  • greg

    Having seen videos of the other entries, this was definitely my preferred entry. Relatively simple with a clear set of ideas that conceptually holds together.

  • Looks fantastic, I just hope they can realise it.

  • papou

    Really happy they won! They deserve it. The project is a great public space combination, with both sensibility and strength, the kind of project that makes you feel better.

  • Stacy

    Zaha’s proposal was far superior. A great loss for Melbourne!

    • Aye, poor Melbourne, not getting shat on from a great height by another of Zaha’s bird keech-like creations. Real shame.

  • Desk

    I’m glad the outcome was decided by an expert jury. What I don’t understand is how the South American team’s scheme could’ve been the people’s choice.

    I just don’t get it! Can somebody please explain – bad graphics, poor confusing explanations, cheap animation, lots of sharp edges, 1990s looking design. Perhaps the general population loves cheap stuff – like brick veneer housing throughout the region encouraging open invitations to undesirable graffiti scribbling pubescents.

    • Public/voter turnout also has to be taken into account; public consultations are notoriously bad for accurately representing public opinion/taste as often many of those who actually go to/participate in such events (for whatever reason) represent only a small minority of their larger communities.

    • Melby

      I agree. Thankfully it’s not the other way around.

    • HDT

      They are Melbourne University students, Melbourians love the under dog!

    • Floong

      I know. The South American idea was sub-par. It actually looked like the work of students (they are). The general public find the idea of a park and greenery less intimidating I guess – but Melbourne is surrounded by parks (there’s a 38 hectare one just down the road). Anyway, the chosen one is simply extraordinary. I just hope they can find the cash the build it. I’m willing to man the sausage sizzle.

    • Craig

      It had a garden on the roof. Simple as that. People like the idea of gardens on top of things.

    • Markus

      Well I’m sure the celebrity chef on the ‘expert’ panel was so much more qualified to comment on the proposals rather than another member of the public.

      We can all heave a sigh of relief that the hoi polloi that would use and interact with this structure have been politely ignored. What would the great unwashed know about what’s good for them and their city in an architectural sense – such apparent nonsense.

      Thankfully this doesn’t occur in middle eastern and central asian countries and communist China where the majority of the major projects are nowadays. Architects can slap their name on whatever phallic monument that the dictators decree worthy of their ambition.

      We should be all very happy that our visions will be realised without such meddlesome democratic interference.

  • hrlvlondon

    There is such clarity and beauty in the Hassell + Herzog & de Meuron scheme that not only respects the heritage building, but also understands the city. I hope the government have the political will to see it built, without any changes. This would certainly put Melbourne on the map.

  • Robyn Vincent

    Absolutely by far the most superior design has won. Just hope that it can now be built. What a landmark iconic building it would be for Victoria!

  • degrootious

    Bring it on! I am so glad this scheme won. It doesn’t overpower the existing building at all, which will please history buffs. Instead, it celebrates the heritage of the site and recognises the needs of future commuters as well as Melbournians needing a versatile public space.

    I for one can’t wait to experience it all. I also really like that it feels warm, given the four seasons in one day we get here, the platforms look like they might actually be pleasant to wait on. A nice change from the existing windswept area!

    I love the use of the waterfront as a stage, backdrop and meeting place. What it also seems to do is connect that neglected western edge of the city back.

  • JEff

    Neo-classical poo pipes.

  • andi

    It looks outdated, and formally naive.

  • don draper

    Roof shape looks like MOMA Warsaw by Christian Kerez!

  • Scott W

    Simple, elegant, and abstract geometries created with an emphasis on materiality and details, and applied to a unique urban context: this is the Herzog & de Meuron I love.

    A truly invigorating projecting that blends together multiple programs to create a world class architectural site. Again, incredibly glad they won!

  • Markus

    There is nothing inherently wrong with the design, but this opposite federation square will be like teeth gnashing together. The student’s design was popular with the public because it attempted to balance out the square’s harshness.

    It’s interesting also that the government asked for proposals to include residential and commercial to offset the cost of the construction for which the government has yet to allocate any funding towards.

    This scheme affords the least space to this. The jury noted this in their published reasons awarding the prize that this would need to be addressed, i.e. the west end will have some sort of high-rise slapped on, which will destroy the scale and simple lines of the design. Otherwise it will never be built.