There's been an immediate backlash over the decision to let Apple move in to Melbourne's Federation Square

15 years of love and hate. Picture: Getty Images

  • The Victorian government has announced that Apple will build a flagship store in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
  • The precinct is already one of Australia’s most controversial public spaces.
  • People are questioning the decision to let the tech giant lease the public land for 20 years.

  • The Victorian government’s decision to demolish one of Melbourne’s landmark buildings in Federation Square to make way for an Apple store has triggered a surprising backlash.

    Despite being the butt of relentless ugly architecture jokes ever since it was opened in 2002, the decision to allow Apple to build a giant store on the plaza — which is next to the Yarra River and beside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station in the heart of the city — has people calling for the decision to be reversed.

    One of the square’s controversial “shards” is to be torn down to make way for the new Apple hub.

    It’s not just any Apple store; a “flagship” Apple store. One of just six to exist in the world, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere when it’s completed in 2020, according to Victorian Tourism Minister John Eren.

    Here’s what it looks like now:

    Before. Image: Google Maps.

    And this is the artist’s rendering of the future building:

    After. Image: Apple.

    The “shard” that’s being demolished was a problematic one, even with aesthetics aside. The Yarra Building was seen as blocking access to the Yarra River, going directly against the design brief’s core mission. So if one part of the iconic precinct was to get an overhaul, it would be the southern building.

    But Federation Square, no matter how many “World’s Ugliest” lists it helps populate, is loved as public space. And residents, visitors and politicians have been quick to condemn handing over a 20-year lease of part of a public space to a multinational corporation.

    The building Apple will demolish is also home to the Koorie Heritage Trust and the Melbourne headquarters of SBS, although both will remain at alternate Federation Square locations.

    “It’s Melbourne’s premier civic and cultural space in the city,” Melbourne Greens councillor Rohan Leppert told AAP.

    “The public has a right to have some input at the very least into what that space looks like and going into the future.”

    Greens MP Ellen Sandell said Federation Square is “not a shopping mall”.

    The original architect behind Federation Square, Donald Bates, says Apple’s vision “respects and expands on the original vision for the space”. And he has plenty of support from those who note an extra 500 square metres of space will be opened up to the public, and better access to the river, in keeping with the original brief.

    And it’s not like the decision came as a sudden shock. More than a year ago, The Age was reporting on Apple’s “$50 million” bid to “replace the unique ‘deconstructivist’ metal building”.

    Still, there’s no pleasing everyone, and crude as it is, @negative_niko cut straight to the heart of the matter best:

    James Norman at the Sydney Morning Herald drew parallels with Parisian anger at the plan to install a McDonald’s on the grounds of the Louvre Museum.

    Above all, the decision has simply reinvigorated debate about Federation Square’s appeal as a piece of architecture with the shared hallmark of all great works of architecture — it gives people something to talk about.

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