2019 Melbourne Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

Melbourne Central Arcade and Bridge Links

Image Credit : Derek Swalwell Photography


Project Overview

This project is a “refresh” of the arcades and Lonsdale Street bridge links elements of the Melbourne Central shopping centre. Melbourne Central was already a layered environment before this latest work was undertaken. The original Kurokawa building was significantly altered by ARM architecture over a decade ago and a multitude of incremental changes since that time had resulted in a sometimes incoherent and tired appearance. Our work was to reinvigorate the centre, to make it seem fresh and contemporary and to reflect the new ways the centre is used. All this had to be achieved with a very light touch.

Project Commissioner


Project Creator

Kennedy Nolan


Rachel Nolan, Patrick Kennedy, Michael Macleod, Jack Lawrence, Alex Christos, Hugh Goad

Project Brief

The brief for this project was extensively researched by the owners of the centre. Our clients aspired to a centre which actively engaged it’s main cohort of users – largely young people, many of whom use the centre as a safe place in the city, a kind of public sitting room or dining room or study. The approach was to be light touch for a number of reasons; commercial – the centre needed to keep trading whilst works were undertaken; environmental – to reflect a growing consciousness of the waste involved in large scale re-constructions; demographic – the main users were comfortable in the informal, somewhat gritty environment of Melbourne Central and would be alienated by anything too slick or intimidating.

Project Innovation/Need

Melbourne Central is a unique retail environment in Melbourne – it is vast, heterogeneous, connected directly to the city loop and a home away from home for foreign students. Where our design has been progressive is in the acknowledgement of how it is used and the genuine response to this. What makes the centre so popular is that it has the atmosphere of being in the Melbourne CBD while offering the sense of security offered in a controlled environment. Consequently our work has focussed on presenting a civic quality – the visual environment eschews the architectural language of the conventional shopping mall. We have done this by amplifying scale using coherent, continuous materials – deploying pattern to add texture and fine grain over the large areas. The robust and expressive use of steel, stone and timber adds to the sense of durability and civic scale and quality, as does the disciplined use of colour referencing the street furniture and civic armatures of the City of Melbourne. The result is a shopping centre which feels vitally connected to the city, a genuine breaking down of the psychological edges imposed by the conventional shopping mall.

Design Challenge

We looked for the elements we could manipulate with maximum effect. We deployed: Pattern - on a civic scale, evident in the floors and ceilings,
Colour - extensively introducing nature’s neutral – green,
Illusion - using mirror in a multitude of ways – reflecting, refracting, multiplying,
Art - providing an armature for the inclusion of public art – from the video art in our basement portals to the suspended Sally Smart Green Angel,
Place-making – through the considered arrangements of loose and fixed furniture to make places for respite, conversation, study, socialising, reflection, meeting.
Plants – to take advantage of the well-documented positive effects - both psychological and to air quality


The project brief was for ‘identifiable change’, a common requirement in a retail environment. We searched for ways to achieve this with a light touch & minimal resources, using real & robust materials of a civic scale and quality such as steel, stone and timber to avoid the churn and waste often associated with disposable retail fit-outs. We looked for materials and approaches which would gain patina and age gracefully, avoiding the shiny & artificial, prioritising quality over cost, using plants as an attraction instead of technology wherever possible.

Sustainability in a building type usually dedicated to consumption is a complex topic. From the outset the client made it clear that environmental sustainability was a priority but that this needed to work in conjunction with their trading requirements. Alongside the obvious aesthetic changes, the project involved upgrading all lighting to energy saving LEDs.

We also saw Melbourne Central as being a direct alternative to suburban car-dependent shopping centres. The Arcade upgrade works aimed to build on the direct connection to the Melbourne Central train station to create an enjoyable & conveniently accessible environment for people's public life in the city.

This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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