17 Union Street

BKK Architects

This Brunswick building is a leading character in a masterplan, which transforms a run-down area into a thriving, transport-oriented village. The site borders Jewell Station, five kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD. Outside, the Upfield Shared Path (carrying up to 1000 cyclists per hour) cuts through the public realm between building and railway line. The building embraces the bike and public realm with boundaries that are respectful and implied.

The main focus of the design was to create a new public square that anchors the precinct and provide a focus for commuters, general public and the inhabitants of the new residential buildings. Two new mixed-use developments have been designed and consist of residential, retail, with other uses such as art studios, a barber shop, and a university satellite space.

Zigzag columns have been employed and a contemporary-styled loggia created to buffer the tenancies from the bike and train zones. Vines ascend the columns and soften the boundary further, while at the building’s south end, concrete seating and different-coloured pathways demarcate the territories of bikes and pedestrians. The project sets a benchmark for transport-oriented design and placemaking that has transformed a dilapidated and unsafe former rail storage yards into a vibrant new public square and village.

In a significant sustainability move, the entire building is designed for future adaptation. Its frame, a concrete grid, has been built to last for decades, while the apartments and tenancies could easily be replaced. To facilitate this, the primary structural frame is kept prominent and simple. Services are consolidated into accessible ducts at the back of the building, rather than distributed in multiple locations. These future-focused design choices mean the whole façade could be replaced or extended and items could be fixed to the concrete to reinvent the building multiple times throughout its lifespan.


Photography: Derek Swalwell