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Underpass: Exploring Flinders St viaducts for Melbourne Design Week

As part of the 2023 Melbourne Design Week program, Underpass presented by Architectus, offered a captivating exploration of the underside of the Flinders St viaducts.

Against the backdrop of a cold evening, we invited eight emerging design professionals working in the built environment to join forces with our own designers for a thought-provoking roaming conversation, starting from Banana Alley.

Throughout the hour-long event, each speaker shared their unique perspective, driven by the physical and experiential aspects of the site, including Customs Square and Enterprise Park. The discussions challenged the existing connections to history, the city, scale, the river, and safety.

The underpass serves as a space of competing authorities, complex structural outcomes, and rigorous construction budgets and time frames. The recent restoration efforts on the 1917 viaducts, guaranteeing their endurance for another 75 years, underscore the significance and scale of these transportation projects.

How can the public claim ownership of these spaces? How can the underpass resonate with the phenomenological experience of being human? Moreover, how can projects involving these spaces allow nature and landscape to reclaim their rightful territory?

Each speaker shed light on the nuanced realities that these projects take on over time, such as providing shelter for those in need or mitigating the intrusion of surrounding noise. In doing so, the evening fostered a tapestry of diverse voices, experiences, and suggestions that will inform our ongoing research, offering a contrast to elements that are more easily sought out – like the dimensions of a concrete pylon.

Thank you to all the speakers Sarah Mair (Hassel), Weston Howell (Jackson Clement Burrows Architects), Eilidh Ross (Workshop Architects), Olivia O’Donnell (Urbis), Matthew Tibballs (Edition), Shereen Amin (McBride Charles Ryan), Liam Oxlade (NH Architecture) and Katie Cudal (City of Melbourne), who joined the lineup led by Architectus Senior Associates Mary Pappioannou and Vivian Sin, Associate Jessica Heald and Graduate Mia Fleming.