Reach For The Sky: Eureka Tower, Melbourne

 Reach For The Sky: Eureka Tower, Melbourne

The world’s tallest residential building has landed in the center of Melbourne. FRV checks the site and finds a 92 storey, gold topped, fully functional monolith. Needless to say, it’s made an impact on the city skyline.

Text by Emma Westwood

Over the past four years, Melburnians have watched as “the tallest residential building in the world” slowly rose from the banks of the Yarra River into its imposing majesty. Eureka Tower, as this landmark AUS$500 million construction was crowned, officially opened mid-October with the release of 300 gold balloons from Victorian State Premier Steve Bracks and the endorsement of its builders Grocon and architects Fender Katsalidis.

At 300 metres, this bright and shiny monolith stands at the same height as another famous tower – the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Unlike its European counterpart, however, Eureka’s 92 storeys act as home to 556 apartments (the first full-floor penthouse, offering spectacular 360-degree views of the Melbourne skyline, was sold in July this year for a cool AUS$7 million price tag). The tower also boasts an observation deck on its 88th level – scheduled to open in December – while the overall complex includes a hotel, a car park, various showrooms and retail outlets, an office building and a public plaza.

Karl Fender, a founding partner of Eureka’s architects Fender Katsalidis, says the site, which neighbours Southbank, was chosen for its potential to add to the thin edge of riverfront development, and “to create a significant, highly visible urban marker to the riverfront arts precinct and the Melbourne skyline”. “As realised, the building has formed a striking terminal form to many of the major axis entryways to the city of Melbourne,” explains Fender. “The emergent views to the building from the city and surroundings continue to surprise.”

When describing the look and feel of Eureka Tower, Fender says the building design “morphs from interlocking geometries at the substantial lower sections of the building, emerging as a slender diamond shape at the upper levels, and is finally crowned at the summit by the two gold cuboids.” The gold of the top 11 floors references the Eureka Stockade, a famous milestone in the history of gold in Australia, and has been a particular talking point of the tower. Fender confirms that, yes, while these floors are clad in gold glass, they have been coated in real gold, which sparkles brightly in the Melbourne sunlight to stunning effect.

With the task of constructing the world’s tallest residential tower comes a number of challenges, which Fender believes were amply met by the available technology and construction systems. Eureka utilises 100 mpa concrete, the strongest ever used in Australia. Sliding formwork systems were developed specifically for the project, and high-speed elevators, travelling at up to nine metres per second were incorporated, making them the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere (just 40 seconds from bottom to top). At the summit, two baffled water tanks were incorporated to slow down the period of the small sway and render it imperceptible.

While it appears every local holds an opinion about Eureka, the tower opened to relatively little controversy. However, clandestine base jumpers have already made news headlines by scaling the tower’s heights for an adrenaline-pumping freefall. “Although the building and complex are omnipresent, they have evolved as respectful neighbours,” says Fender with regard to the Eureka development’s dominating presence. “Ground level wind problems have been avoided through careful consideration of building forms, the shadow cast is slender, and street level activities are scaled to the neighbours with complimentary uses introduced.”

He proudly adds: “The complex has added life and vibrancy to Southbank without detriment or controversy.”

“The response to Eureka Tower has evolved from curiosity during construction, to wonderment on completion,” continues Fender. “It is big… the biggest in Australia. It is unusual… unlike the general perception of a high-rise building. It does change… its sculptured form takes on very different personalities from varying viewpoints. Accordingly, it is engaging from both near and afar. We hope that, like a great piece of sculpture, it will endure over time.”

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