Green Magazine in conjunction with The City of Melbourne and MINI Australia initiated a design exhibition for the prominent site at the north-west corner of Melbourne’s CBD, adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market.
The exhibition was held in October 2018 at the M Pavilion at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, around the corner from the subject site.
The key stipulation for the exhibition was that the designs had to be communicated with hand drawn sketches. Old School!
The inspiration for our proposal draws from an environmental problem that exists on this site, at the top end of Elisabeth Street. Elisabeth Street was originally a natural waterway that was built over to become a busy city street. Overland flows still naturally run into Elisabeth street resulting in flashing flooding and carrying pollutants to Port Phillip Bay – a terrible outcome for the built environment, city commuters and of course, the natural environment.
This problem is endemic to this site but also exists across our cities where hard surfaces prevent the natural absorption of water into the environment.
Too often our cities and buildings don’t retain the water that falls on and around them, sending it off to the bay polluted with rubbish and toxins from our urban environment. This makes an unhealthy environment for our surrounding marine life. If that isn’t bad enough, these toxins end up in the fish that we as humans end up consuming on our plates!
Meanwhile our city buildings import huge amounts of water from reservoirs miles away, use that water once in inefficient ways, and then send it off to sewerage treatment plants, again miles away. Crazy right!?
Our proposal for this site is multifunctional system that links the problem of urban water management with the production of food within our city and in so doing creating opportunities for a better model of inner city living.
As our population grows and climate change creates uncertainties around our future, we believe that multi-residential, mixed use developments should be focusing on creating multifunctional infrastructure systems. These buildings can better connect our communities but also promote more efficient use of resources to meet the social and environmental challenges that we face moving forward.
Our proposed building will collect all of the water that falls on and adjacent to the subject site. This water will be stored and used within the building. Once used this water is treated on site and re-used. It is pumped to the top of the building and cascades down the green facade being used in urban farming, hydroponics and aquaponics. This creates green spaces that members of the urban village are able to enjoy. The water in turn passively cools the building and reduces the urban heat island effect in Melbourne’s CBD. This process cleanses Elisabeth Street’s stormwater leaving it clean to return to the environment. It also provides a more natural addition to the cityscape.
We believe that decentralized and multifunctional infrastructure systems can shape the future of urban development. The approach of connecting water infrastructure with food production strives for a ‘loop’ promoting efficient water use, enhancing water security in supply and disposal. This is imperative in Australia. The linking of such resource cycles can increase the multifunctionality of urban space, decrease our pollution on the natural environment and lead to a more attractive urban environment.
This might seem farfetched, but a similar thing has been done in Germany at a Building called Block 6 – a 1960’s residential complex loin Berlin. In 1987, Block 6 became a pilot project investigating ecological urban renewal, focusing particularly on water within the urban environment. Today, Block 6 is still operating as a ‘live’ laboratory, constantly evolving the water treatment processes of its 250 occupants through mechanical and biological processes. The domestic wastewater produced by the tenants is separated into two flows, grey water and black water. The treated grey water of the buildings occupants reaches a ‘bath water’ quality, and is re-used throughout the building for toilet flushing and to water tenants gardens. This greywater is also used throughout a communal ‘Roof Water Farm’ for the production of fish and plants within a greenhouse, supplying the Block 6 inhabitants as well the ability to supply the local community. Rainwater that falls within the site is directed to a constructed wetland, and stored within the courtyard of the buildings complex. We are incredibly inspired by the resource efficient systems that have been implemented within this project.
If they can insert these systems into the retro-fit of an existing building in Germany, why can’t we do it here?
Check out the video of our proposal produced by Green magazine.
Also follow the links to the other great proposals produced by the other architects participating in this exhibition.