Australian firm Lyons, whose past projects include a string of colourful university buildings, won a competition to design the building for the Australian Institute of Architects' Victoria chapter after proposing a building aimed at helping the institute engage with the public.
Named 41X, the tower sits at a crossroads between Exhibition Street and Flinders Lane. Its facade is covered with angular concrete fins, as a reference to the "chiselled masonry aesthetic" of Melbourne's public buildings, but they appear to be cut away to make room for elevated public spaces highlighted with bright green accents.
"The design explores the idea of joining together a public and commercial building, by connecting the city street space with Institute occupied levels," said Lyons director Adrian Stanic. "A major stair, visible from Flinders Lane, facilitates this and makes public engagement a focal point of the building."
The AIA was the client for the project and occupies five floors of the building, leaving the rest of the floors free for up to 15 commercial tenants.
"This project enables owners or occupiers to create their own identity on whole floors within the building, creating a distinctively vertical business community on this city corner," added Stanic.
Australian firm Hassell designed the interiors of the AIA's five floors. These include a first-floor "design haven" containing an architecture and design bookshop named Architext, a cafe serving as a public meeting space and a seminar room.
A terrace is located on the roof, while bicycle storage and changing facilities are contained in the basement.
Photography is by John Gollings.
Here's the full announcement from the Australian Institute of Architects:
New heights and a new home for architecture as Governor-General opens strata tower in Melbourne
Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, has officially opened Victoria's new home of architecture at 41 Exhibition Street.
Developed by the Australian Institute of Architects, 41X is a 22-storey Five Star Green Star strata-titled commercial tower that accommodates the Institute's Melbourne offices, including the Victorian Chapter, over five levels. 41X is the first strata commercial office building in Melbourne to target carbon neutrality over its 30 year operating lifespan - accounting for embodied energy, base building operational energy, transport and waste.
"41X successfully shows how private and not-for-profit organisations can have a positive impact on the development of our cities by creating world class, cutting-edge, environmentally responsible commercial buildings," Her Excellency said.
'This elegant addition to Melbourne's CBD makes a bold statement about the value of design. With this building, the Institute is strongly reinforcing the value of architects and architecture to the sustainable growth of our community - tangibly fulfilling its mission of 'making the world a better place through architecture'."
Conceived as a hub for architecture, for Institute members and the public alike, 41X is the place for design enthusiasts to meet, with a design haven on level 1, complete with a comprehensive architecture and design bookshop (Architext) and a café run by Axil Coffee Roasters. In addition, the Institute is currently developing a program of public events focusing on architecture and design.
41X is situated on a small footprint block at the corner of Exhibition Street and Flinders Lane and is also home to 15 other purchasers and tenants keen to be part of this exemplar building.
The project's inception dates back to 2006, when a detailed feasibility study for the site, encompassing a range of potential options for its future including renovation through to relocation, was commissioned.
After extensive consultation, the Institute's National Council decided that the site would be redeveloped into a small office tower that would set new standards in quality Australian commercial architecture.
In 2008, the Institute held a two-stage design competition. The commission was awarded to Lyons Architects with a concept that explored ideas about the hybrid public/commercial building, the engagement of the Institute with the public and targeting a carbon-neutral outcome.
In 2012, following a rigorous selection process, Hassell was selected as architect for the fit-out of the five Institute-occupied levels.
Paul Berkemeier, National President of the Institute said "We are immensely proud of our new Melbourne home. It is an exemplary, small footprint, commercial building that shows how good design, sustainability and the work of architects can deliver outstanding results."