Decision delayed on commercial tower at Adelaide Festival Plaza

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South Australia’s State Commission Assessment Panel has deferred its decision on proposed changes to Walker Corporation’s tower development adjacent to Adelaide Festival Plaza after concerns were raised over the heritage impact on the adjacent Parliament House building.

The latest proposal, designed by JPW Architects, is the fourth variation on a scheme that was approved in November 2016 with a design by Bates Smart. It calls for minor changes to the design and internal configuration of the 27-level office tower, the inclusion of a new pedestrian walkway and the extension of the retail pavilion to the east.

Government planners are largely in support of the changes, but Heritage SA has raised objections to the extension of the retail component, with principal conservation architect Peter Wells objecting to the encroachment into the curtilage of Parliament House.

“I consider that a fundamental formal quality is lost in the proposed misalignment of Parliament House and the eastern retail edge, diminishing both the setting of the heritage building and the urban design response,” he writes in his assessment.

Despite these heritage concerns, the report to the assessment panel recommended approval of the development. But the panel voted to defer its decision on 11 November, to allow for a reassessment of the eastern retail pavilion.

For its part, JPW Architects states that the proposed variation “refines and enriches the site planning and building design principles established by the current [approved scheme], creating a more cohesive relationship between the new and old buildings in the precinct, and a more integrated and permeable public realm.”

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Festival Plaza development by JPW Architects.

Festival Plaza development by JPW Architects.

The design of the office tower retains its visually simple expression of stacked boxes, with only subtle changes to texture and form and texture, including “changing the alignment of some of the tower facades so that they reflect different parts of the sky”; “changing the angle of expressed fins across the facades so that they still provide shading, but also reflect light at different angles so that the block forms making up the tower are distinct”; and “reinforcing a horizontal expression across the northern frontage to Festival Square, with a distinctive podium facade type within the Commercial Tower Podium.”

The foyer of the office building will also be expanded to create two lobbies, with a high-rise lobby at ground level and a low-rise lobby at level one.

Heritage SA and the state’s government architect found that the amendments to the external form of the tower and podium improved their visual relationship with the surrounding heritage context and contributed to a more balanced overall visual expression.

The government architect said the two lobby spaces gave the building a strong sense of address, while the stepped composition presented an effectively contrasting expression.

The state government is also funding the redevelopement of the adjacent Adelaide Festival Plaza designed by ARM Architecture and Taylor Cullity Lethlean. The government announced a further $31.2 million for the project in this week’s budget, bringing the overall price tag to $214 million.

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