Melbourne changes design rules to stop ‘featureless facades and ugly towers’

Melbourne changes design rules to stop ‘featureless facades and ugly towers’

Melbourne design

City of Melbourne says they have completed the biggest overhaul of the city’s urban design rules in almost 25 years to protect against ugly design.

While encompassing a proud tradition of Victorian-era architecture and street-level heritage design, Melbourne has been criticised over past decades for the unimaginative modern architecture that now fills the city’s booming construction.

The City of Melbourne say they’re now aiming to address this through new urban design rules, aimed at restricting the design rules around new building projects to create more attractive, and less monotonous city architecture.

What you need to know

  • City of Melbourne have overhauled their urban design rules
  • The changes are aimed to more engaging street level architecture and design
  • Changes include rules around carparks, monotonous glass panels and ugly building services 

Stay up to date with what’s happening in Melbourne here.

While the proof will always be the in result, the City of Melbourne say the council is “raising the bar for design and architectural considerations for buildings, including how buildings relate to streets and public spaces. ”

The Minister for Planning has approved the council’s new Central Melbourne Design Guide and associated planning scheme policy. The guide rethinks outdated urban design requirements in the Melbourne Planning Scheme which apply to the central city and Southbank.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the Design Guide is the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design requirements since the 1990s and would set a new higher standard for Melbourne.

“This is what building back better looks like, this is a revolution for the city at the eye level, this is about drawing a line and saying from now on Melbourne must aim higher,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“We’re raising the standard for development to protect our streets from featureless facades and our skyline from ugly towers that are nothing more than spreadsheets in the sky.

“Melbourne has some fantastic buildings which demonstrate innovation and contribute to world class streets, but in recent times there have been too many examples of where we have fallen short.

“Now there is no excuse for unattractive and unimaginative lower-level building interfaces, forcing pedestrians to look at car parks, monotonous glass panels, or ugly building services.

“The new guide will help us ensure new developments are high quality and deliver ground floor amenity which positively impacts the streetscape. It’ll also encourage street level activation and character which will boost economic development in our city and ensure premium visible city space is better used for benefit and the community.”

The Central Melbourne Design Guide supports new rules with design outcomes focusing on:

  • Car parking in buildings being underground
  • Minimising the impact of building services at ground level, such as fire control rooms, air conditioning vents, electrical substations and rubbish areas
  • Less than 40 per cent of the ground floor of a building being occupied by building services to reduce facades which turn their backs to streets
  • Expanding the Retail Core requirement for 80 per cent active frontages to streets
  • New requirements to integrate good design from the first step of the planning process and especially encouraging well considered and resolved design detail for the lower levels of new buildings.

The Deputy Lord Mayor said residents, workers and visitors would benefit from the new design guide.

“As COVID-19 restrictions ease, we want to ensure people are returning to a safe and sophisticated city that promotes the best possible design and experience,” he continued.

“We want to see Melbourne come back better than ever. To do this, it’s vital that we support high-quality urban design to help get Melbourne back on its feet.”

To download the full design sheet PDF, click here.