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Escala: The Docklands project bringing a piazza to the people

More public spaces are beginning to emerge around Melbourne as developers turn a keen eye on community.

These outdoor spaces come with enough room for people to do what people do – meet, chat and sip coffee. They commonly feature built-in seating and are architecturally positioned to receive the best light and protection from the wind and sun.

Melbourne has a limited number of established communal spaces and our most prominent, Federation Square, is just 18 years young. Historians point to early planning strategies that deliberately avoided gathering spaces for fear they would facilitate colonial uprisings.

But now private developers are seizing on ways to attract people, including those who may not live or work at the buildings they are constructing.

The latest of these is the 100 square metre piazza at Escala, a new apartment complex set to grace the Docklands.

“I would say the symbolic heart of the project is the piazza,” says Michael Frazzetto, from Six Degrees Architects. “It’s where residents and the public can intermingle. It’s a real sort of gesture towards a communal space.”

A challenge for Frazzetto and his team was to shelter Escala’s piazza against the powerful winds the Docklands is so well known for.

“It’s a principal problem that a lot of projects in the Docklands face,” he says. “We sort of strategically located that piazza so it’s buffeted and protected against the strong southwesterlies. As they blow through it’ll be protected from that wind.”

It is also positioned on the north-east corner to capture morning light so visitors can still enjoy the space throughout Melbourne’s winter. And read the paper without it blowing away, says Frazzetto.

“It’s sort of something as simple as that level of detail that makes it a habitable space,” he says.

Docklands itself continues to become more community-minded with new additions such as a Woolworths supermarket and a Hoyts cinema to anchor the District Docklands. It’s part of a $150 million redevelopment of Harbour Town that will see a new roof and wind barriers, plus better CBD connections.

Improved infrastructure is part of the reason Peter Anderson decided to take a second look at the Docklands. He ventured there in 2002, but found the apartments were too small and decided to buy in Southbank instead.

One week before Christmas last year he purchased a two-bedroom apartment at Banksia, NewQuay.

“Over the last 10 years Southbank has become a concrete jungle so it was time to upgrade,” he says.

“At Banksia I’ve got uninterrupted water views and no road traffic.

“Plus the Docklands has come a long way in the last 20 years. It’s a thriving metropolis now.”

Originally published in by Kate Jones on 27/04/2018


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