Urban analyses as instigation for architectural design: a conceptual approach seemingly straightforward and uncomplicated, though The Melbourne Section collective may now confess otherwise. Led by Maud Cassaignau and Markus Jung from the Department of Architecture at Monash University, in association with Assistant Professor Milica Topalovic and Martin Knüsel from the Future Cities Laboratory, the team’s year-long examination of Melbourne’s urban conditions revealed secrets, exposed opportunities and provoked future scenarios for sustainable densification on a number of scales. Aiming to address the impacts and effects of population growth, changing identity and economical interdependency, The Melbourne Section challenges planimetric thinking through a revealing sectional investigation, acting as a catalyst for strategic urban influence and transformation. It emphasises the importance and usefulness of urban analyses as a means of discovery.
Enticed by Melbourne’s enormous urban boundary and contrastingly small number of inhabitants, the team analysed the eastern band and its territory as a series of smaller components, each revealing their own complexities, diversities and unique aspects of culture, economy, education and history. The revelation of these existing urban qualities, strengths and potentials, as well as the intensification of imperceptible factors, acted as the catalyst for The Melbourne Section’s design process, while also offering cues for a larger, holistic synergy and approach. Rigorous on-site mapping, first person inquisition, historical investigation and demographic analysis exemplified their fascination and instigated notions of mixed-use education, employment and housing through innovative densification.
Richmond’s on-site analysis revealed a particularly unique, ‘behind-the-scenes’ means of living. A generational tradition of farming and fresh food markets within the Vietnamese community showed to be influential towards current urban conditions and exemplified a small-scale, alternative economy of self-sufficiency. Shop frontages and footpaths scattered with fruit and vegetable stalls acted as commerce between the shop owners, public and Richmond’s shadier characters, while the shops themselves served as temporary refuge and housing. This cyclical process was also evident in the commission housing, where a history of community development, value and family support prompted the proposal for urban farming. The urban farm proposal addresses the challenges of agricultural land and development by implementing urban cultivation as a means of localising food production. This aims to contribute to a healthy urban environment by reducing energy expended by packaging and transportation, while creating new employment opportunities across the Eastern network.
Hawthorn, a high-income suburb with strong residential and education program, is culturally shaped by its abundance of private schools and educational opportunity. From further analysis of these conditions, a distinction was revealed between the east and west areas of Glenferrie Road, as streets, nature strips, block sizes and neighbouring proximities were surprisingly different. Housing and land footprints west of Glenferrie Road were typically more than double the size of their eastern counterparts, and contrasting property values signified affluence and history for both residents and schools. This observational divide acted as a catalyst for an all-hours educational facility, where a variety of professions are developed within a mixed-use communal zone. The courtyard typology includes public facilities, boarding houses, apartments, sport facilities and classrooms encircling the existing oval, and drive the vision of graduates influencing the broader community through further educational and economic links between Lilydale, Ringwood, Box Hill, Richmond and the CBD.
Box Hill, considered one of Melbourne’s central hubs for immigration, revealed a strong diversity of programmatic zones. Analysing the suburb as a bustling activity centre for its mostly Chinese inhabitants, it offered new opportunities for entertainment, community, housing, shopping, business and health. Recurring notions of convenience, such as travel time and distance from home, emphasised visions of community-based collective living and suggested some existing elements of Box Hill’s student accommodation should be maintained. Like Richmond, Box Hill maintained a generational sense of tradition throughout its variety of programs. However, there lay a distinction between the shop front openness, informal stalls and single entry stores to the footpath. This accumulated to a proposal of a highly dense activity hub of Chinese interests, where badminton, karaoke, teahouses and hawker stall facilities converged with infrastructure, migration and accommodation.
The Ringwood-Dandenong corridor currently acts as a major employment corridor. Industrial zones and business hubs are concentrated along the north-south band and this was analysed as a huge potential for future technological innovation and production. Playfully interpreted as a smaller-scale Silicon Valley, the redevelopment proposal serves as a hub for local and international distribution of research, health, agriculture, irrigation and manufacturing. The redistribution of current production zones offers a new corridor, building on the transitional period between scientific method and the digital age. The Maroondah Council’s aging population was also considered, as health and community facilities are hybridised with future mixed-used areas of production, vertical circulation and small to large-scale business. This also offers pedestrian accessibility above Maroondah Highway and the existing train line, and between densities of apartment, courtyard and tower typologies in the greater scope of networked cohesion.
Maud Cassaignau and Markus Jung are the principals of XPACE architecture + urban design. They have been lecturers at the Architecture Department of Monash University since 2011.
Maud Cassaignau, Markus Jung, Matthew Xue
TheMelbourneSection.info for further project information and full credit list.