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Budget fears hit Herzog & de Meuron's Flinders St Station plans

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A proposal to redevelop Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia, by practices Herzog & de Meuron and HASSELL looks unlikely to go ahead due to funding fears

The two firms won a high-profile, international design competition for the project held in 2013 under the previous Liberal/National coalition in Victoria, which last year lost power to the Labour Party.

This week, the new administration’s treasurer Tim Pallas said that, although a final decision was yet to be made, the value of the project was in question.

He told broadcaster ABC: ‘The previous government put millions of dollars into a design competition. We were quite critical of it when we were in opposition and we said that design competition didn’t accord with the community’s priorities.

‘It would be an inordinate burden upon taxpayers.’

Since the competition, which featured shortlisted desings by  British practices Zaha Hadid and Grimshaw, development agency Major Projects Victoria has been working on a preliminary business case for the redevelopment, which has yet to be delivered.

However, it was reported in August that the government was concerned that the scheme would cost $2 billion to complete, and that only 20 per cent of the project was devoted to commercial development.

The winning design included an amphitheatre, plaza, marketplace and art gallery.

However even after the conclusion of the competition, the former coalition government failed to come up with funding for the project, and ruled out selling the station to help finance construction.

Pallas told ABC that the competition was ‘nothing more than a drawing project’.

He said: ‘Rather than spend billions of dollars on an edifice in the centre of the city, our view was that that money could be better spent delivering better public transport for Victorians,’ he said.

‘We don’t see it as our priority and never did.’

Just weeks after Herzog and de Meuron’s victory Melbourne-born comedian Barry Humphries also attacked the winning design, penning a critical poem for the Herald Sun in which he likened the concept to ‘a huge industrial drain’.

Flinders Street Station was originally built in 1854 and is the busiest station in Melbourne.

Nearly 120 practices entered the competition to rejuvenate, restore and upgrade the station with a fifth of those registering for the State Government of Victoria-backed contest coming from the UK.

Already the busiest railway station in Victoria with more than over 150,000 people passing through the station every day, Flinders Street expect its passenger numbers to triple by 2021.

Herzog and de Meuron refused to comment.

The finalists

  • Ashton Raggatt McDougall (Melbourne)
  • John Wardle Architects (Australia) + Grimshaw (UK)
  • HASSELL (Melbourne) + Herzog & de Meuron (Switzerland)
  • NH Architecture (Melbourne)
  • Eduardo Velasquez + Manuel Pineda + Santiago Medina of Columbia via the University of Melbourne
  • Zaha Hadid Architecture (UK) & BVN Architecture (Melbourne)


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