“Heritage: Shaping Cranbourne Park’s Obstacle Into The Architectural Narrative.”

When was the last time you heard a developer say “Park the budget for a moment, are we pursuing the best possible design or have we cut back too many creative elements in favour of the bottom line?”

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We had been working with Federation Centres on the redevelopment of Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre for 12 months and we had already lodged a development application and were working through the tender documentation when Federation challenged us to review the design that had evolved to ensure we were pursuing the most creative and iconic outcome for this development.

The opportunity was not lost on i2C and we embraced the challenge wholeheartedly.

We went back to the original thinking, design criteria and vision and agreed that one of the key elements of the original design, “the ribbon façade”, had been watered down to a point where the creative had virtually dissolved.

The design philosophy behind the ribbon façade was to use screening to create a more organic flow along the site, an element that morphed onto a number of architectural programs along its journey. The screen would connect all the existing and new retail and commercial elements of the site, encompassing approximately 400 metres of lineal built form. It would start from the incumbent heritage oak tree at the northern end of the site and stretch south like a ribbon along the Gippsland Highway, creating a gateway to Cranbourne CBD.

The heritage oak tree had been identified in our original design philosophy as important for the community and as a nodal point on the site. Our design features an indoor/outdoor restaurant that overlooked the iconic tree and the highway, creating a focal point and the ideal place to start the ribbon facade that would flow along the site.

While the oak tree was the strongest element on the site, it was also the source of most obstacles during design development. In overcoming these obstacles as the design evolved, the significance of the tree and its connection to the ribbon façade had been gradually whittled away.

To reinstate the significance of the oak tree and the ribbon façade, we realised we needed to reinforce the connection between the two, strengthening the expression of our original design philosophy.

We took a closer look at the oak tree, honing in on a number of key elements that we wanted to reflect in the ribbon façade. The leaves, acorns and the shape of the branches at the junction to the acorn became the inspiration behind the design of the various elements of the façade, adding depth and articulation along the length of the ribbon element.

The building of individual detailed model elements and of the façade directed the language of the ribbons form and we could see the wave of movement over the solid flat wall structures evolving. We could see how they emphasised the fluidity of the design and sustained the ribbon narrative along the full length of the site.

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The models also revealed further opportunities to articulate the story with the addition of sculptural elements. Acorn shapes were cut out of the vertical sticks and branch sculptures were expressed along the pedestrian journey. An oak tree leaf was inserted into the façade so that the half-leaf was projecting out from the wall, providing an undercover seatings/planting pods for pedestrians and inviting them to become part of the story.

The organic nature of the ribbon façade has been further enhanced by the colour palette, which includes four shades of green, reflecting the summer/autumn leaves of the oak tree. These colours are offset by the charcoal wall colour that the ribbon screen projects off.

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To enhance the form by night, coloured LED lighting was added at strategic points along the façade, providing another layer to the experience of Cranbourne Park.

Apart from being a genuinely exciting process, taking a step back to review design and hold it up against the original philosophy and vision has proved invaluable to the redevelopment of Cranbourne Park. The creative is reinvigorated, strong and clear and articulated across the site. We know that, as a result, the experience of the new Cranbourne Park will enhance the human experience for the community and visitors alike.

Project summary:

Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre

Value: Stage 1 $65m
Client: Federation Centres
Disciplines: Urban Planning/Planning/Design
Year: 2012/13
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria
Status: In Documentation/Construction