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The Transformation of Southbank Boulevard

While we’ve been away, the City of Melbourne has been working on further stages of Southbank Boulevard. Sections have been completed and revealed over recent months for people to enjoy when they return to the city. Each section has a distinctive character responding to the adjacent buildings and their uses.

Beginning at St Kilda Rd

The Melbourne Recital Centre comes into view from St Kilda Road. The Boulevard curves away towards the River. This is a slow speed environment with space for trams (and not just any tram but the No 1 South Melbourne Beach), cars, riders and walkers. There are benches under the recently planted shade trees which have already got quite a canopy.

The Melbourne Theatre Company and Melbourne Recital Centre (between Dodds & Sturt St)

The stone used in the landscaping here comes from Warnambool. Each piece is a study in colour and shades – a bit like Federation Square but smoother. There are a variety of places to sit and perch. This is where people will gather before or after a show, perhaps having been dropped off at the door by the tram. You can turn your chair to face the morning sun. Bees, butterflies and ladybirds have already moved in to the wildflowers richly planted in this section.

The ABC forecourt (between Sturt & Moore St)

This section has a more civic and formal character befitting the national broadcaster. There is a hardscape and a softscape – a slightly elevated lawn which I predict will become as popular as the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria. The feel of this space is linear and responds to the design of the ABC building by Cox Architecture. There are seats and benches in many configurations and barbecues.

Walking and cycling

‘Be sweet to pedestrians, be sweet to cyclists’ entreated Danish urbanist Jan Gehl. They are like brother and sister, along with public transport, he said. On the building side of the linear park from St Kilda Rd to City Rd is a generous footpath which connects with, and leads on to, the next section via spacious pedestrian crossings. Generous bicycle parking is provided. The fully separated bike path is on the road side – separated from the pedestrian path by the entire width of the landscaping. There is also room for a slow speed car lane.

The Shady Place

This section will be sought after on hot days. It has been planted with Gingko trees which have a very soothing quality. The space is surrounded by existing plane trees. All the trees have been chosen in accordance with the City of Melbourne’s urban forest policy to withstand the hotter climate and provide shade to ameliorate the heat island effect. The seating setting overlooking the satisfyingly round lawn makes this space an early favourite with me. The designers have anticipated that people are going to want to enter the space from the footpath and there are multiple entry points to it. Large rocks from the Pyrenees area provide an organically shaped counterpoint to the formality.

The next stage (between Fawkner St & City Rd)

Work is underway on the next stage. I hope you will be excited about what you have seen so far to keep an eye what is emerging when you next pass on City Rd. It could be the best yet!


  • Pat Grainger

    To one who has not been out at all for weeks nor along Southbank Blvd for countless months, this is astounding! It's hard to thoroughly comprehend, but many thanks, Janet, for your superb job of describing and explaining it.

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