Apple has revealed plans for its brand-new flagship store in Melbourne’s main cultural hub, Federation Square.
But not everyone’s convinced.
Announced on Wednesday, the two-level glass-walled pavilion was unveiled with a promise from Apple that the planned project “increases public space and provides a daily program of activity to inspire and educate the community.”
But it’s this element of public space that has people a little concerned.
Apple’s new store is the result of a partnership with the Victorian Government and Federation Square, with ABC reporting that Fed Square lead architect Donald Bates has been well involved in the planning.
Constantly used for public gatherings, protests, sports screenings, concerts and Council-organised events, the 7.9-acre Fed Square is currently home to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre, and the headquarters for public broadcaster SBS, along with a bucketload of well-used public space.
According to Apple, the new Melbourne store will “increase the public space within Federation Square through thoughtful planning and landscaping,” creating “a new destination where the community can gather, shop, be inspired, educated and entertained.”
It all sounds pretty standard so far, but some members of the public have concerns.
Concern 1: Another building is being demolished
Some, like The Age, are noting that the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Federation Square base, an Aboriginal arts and cultural organisation, will be demolished for the Apple store. The report says that Apple will foot the bill for the demolition and the Trust will move into a larger space, also in Fed Square.
The Trust issued a statement confirming the move, saying the decision by the Trust’s Board was reached after muchdeliberation:
The Koorie Heritage Trust’s Board of Management has made the decision to capitalise on a rare opportunity to relocate the Trust to larger premises but remaining as a crucial element of Federation Square’s cultural and creative tenancy.
The presence of the Apple Global Flagship Store will not impact on the delivery of theTrust’s many programs and services, nor thecareand maintenance of the Trust’s unique collections.
Fed Square architect Bates told ABC, “The building that is being replaced was itself designed as a commercial building. We’re not changing what Federation Square was, we’re just changing the tenant concept.”
Apple says the new building will “improve access to the Yarra River,” as opposed to blocking it, which the Trust building currently somewhat does.
Concern 2: A multinational corporation is taking over public space
Melbourne Greens state MP Ellen Sandell told the ABC the public might feel strongly about a major international company scooping up part of a cultural space.
“Federation [Square] was built as a cultural place for all of the public to enjoy, not as a commercial shopping mall,” she told the broadcaster. “Victorians will rightly be asking themselves why this Labor Government continually lets our public space be taken over by corporations and private developers. We don’t know what deals or incentives were done here.”
Federation Square has been operated since 2000 by a government-owned company called Fed Square Pty Ltd, which reports to Victorian Government’s Minister for Tourism and Major Events. The exact nature of the deal between Apple, Fed Square Pty Ltd and the Victorian Government remains to be seen.
Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, said in a press statement that Apple Federation Square will adhere to the space’s cultural strategy and that it “respects the original vision for the plaza, with a bespoke design concept and extensive landscaping bringing increased opportunities for the community to enjoy this renowned cultural hub.”
Melbourne architect Michael Smith told Architecture and Design that Apple had “misjudged the cultural significance” of Fed Square to Melburnians and suggested the company look elsewhere for their new flagship.
“Federation Square has become every bit as important to Melbourne’s 21st century identity as the National Gallery of Victoria or the MCG,” he told the publisher. “It is extraordinary that any government would even remotely entertain a bid to demolish part of Melbourne’s most successful urban public space and most iconic piece of contemporary architecture in order to facilitate a glorified retail premises. Melburnians will not stand by and watch this happen.”
Folks are taking to Twitter to discuss the new Apple store, with some excited by the prospect and others annoyed they were denied public consultation:
Rocketing into the future of our corporate overlords. Thanks for nothing.
— pencilfury (@pencilfury) December 20, 2017
Re Fed Square’s new Apple store: Minister Eren confirms negotiations with Apple to take over Fed Square have taken two years. Public consultation though? NONE. Apple’s proposal has been endorsed and presented to Melburnians as a fait accompli. https://t.co/BBz4u8lwkG via @theage
— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) December 20, 2017
The Age reports that construction is set to begin in 2019 and finish by 2020.
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