19/03/2008 - 22:00

Developing debate on city design

19/03/2008 - 22:00

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Developing debate on city design

Recently released images of Multiplex’s planned City Square tower, future home of BHP Billiton, have prompted debate on the future direction of building design in Perth.

Some high-profile support for the project has come from Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.

“I like the BHP tower; I think the refurbishment of the heritage buildings is very significant, and I like the public space they’ve created,” she said.

“I also like the spire component on top which will make it the tallest building in the city.” Ms Scaffidi said creating quality buildings in Perth was a matter of reconciling the competing interests of design and the cost of construction.

“Good architecture is sought by everyone, and everyone appreciates good architecture, but it comes at a price,” she said.

“You have to look at design, but the more fundamental issue is to get more developments happening in the city.” This was relevant in terms of the foreshore development, which would be a balancing act between developers and other parties, Ms Scaffidi said.

“You’d hope that developers of the sites would give design a lot of consideration, but with the foreshore, it’s not going to be cheap to build, because it’s prime land.” Royal Australian Institute of Architects WA chapter president Rod Mollett said that, while he had not seen a great amount of detail around the designs for City Square, he believed the design was fairly conventional.

“I thought it was somewhat bland, with a striking spire on top that seemed to be the overriding feature on it, although I think at ground level it will be quite exciting with the refurbishment of the heritage buildings,” he said.

Mr Mollett said it was difficult to gauge what the mood of the community was in terms of the future direction of the city’s design.

“It’s like the cigar-shaped building designed for the foreshore – that attracted criticism from the public, and yet you put up something quite conservative in its overall form (like the City Square tower), and there’s only a murmur,” he said.

University of Western Australia Professor Richard Weller, who was part of the design team behind the foreshore plans, said he believed the initial designs would be realised in the end product.

“It’s a very high-profile area, so all the developers will be putting in their best efforts,” he said.

“There’s a lot of good will around and there’s a network of people dedicated to quality urban design.

People like the (planning) minister are really passionate about it, and there’s a generation of well-travelled people who want a great city.”

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