Vote Flinders Street: conclusion

herzog + de meuron federation square

herzog + de meuron evening rooftop

herzog + de meuron platforms

herzog + de meuron gallery

herzog + de meuron across the river

herzog + de meuron amphitheatre
Winning proposal by Herzog & de Meuron + HASSELL

What is it?

After two years, 117 Stage 1 submissions from around the world, 1 unauthorised exhibition, exhaustive work from 6 architectural teams on Stage 2 submissions, jury deliberation, extensive media coverage and two weeks of public voting, the results for the Flinders Street Station design competition are finally in.

By unanimous jury vote, the competition winner and recipient of $500,000 prize money is the Swiss / Australian team, Herzog & de Meuron + HASSELL. The jury praised their proposal “for its respect for the heritage of the Administration Building while creating new and memorable additions to the station.” We hope the competition organisers will release further jury commentary soon.

Winning the people’s choice award and all four judging criteria is the team of Columbian students from the University of Melbourne: Eduardo Velasquez, Manuel Pineda and Santiago Medina. The public was taken by the proposal’s generous green roof and, we suspect, its designers’ underdog status.

Curiously, the jury did not award individual second and third prizes, instead rewarding all five of the non-winning shortlisted entries as equal runners up.

velasquez pineda medina festival

velasquez pineda medina aerial

velasquez pineda medina parkland

velasquez pineda medina platforms
Winner of the people’s choice award by Eduardo Velasquez, Manuel Pineda and Santiago Medina

What do we think?

We have already dedicated significant pixel space to discussion of both the Herzog & de Meuron’s + HASSELL proposal and Velasquez, Pineda and Medina‘s. As indicated, we voted the former in second place, so are more than pleased it has won the jury’s vote. We voted the latter in fourth place behind very strong competition, commending its generous parkland but criticising its unconvincing heritage treatment and under-ambitious programme. We are certain that over coming years they will be architects to watch: again, we are pleased it has won the popular vote.

Most perplexing, even suspicious, is the jury’s decision to award equal second place to the five runners up. We feel it demonstrates either an acute lack of self-confidence or inappropriate political intervention. To our minds, the Zaha Hadid + BVN Donovan Hill proposal is clearly inferior to all other five. That it can be awarded to the same extent as the compelling NH Architecture and John Wardle Architects + Grimshaw proposals is offensive.

Dennis Napthine, Premier of Victoria, has stated that the winning proposal is likely to cost between $1b and $1.5b to build. It is certainly a hefty capital investment and one commonly understood will never be made. This is a great pity and, we suppose, a reflection of this State’s 40 year public transport investment drought. Looking at the broader implications of this competition, it is a small leap for us to dream of a world where the East-West road tunnel is de-prioritised in favour of the Melbourne Metro, Doncaster rail line, Melbourne to Brisbane high speed rail project and, of course, the Flinders Street Station upgrade.

Comments following the announcement of the winner in The Age are disturbing but perhaps not surprising. Following in the grand tradition of the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and Federation Square, there is little love for the winning design. Misunderstandings abound: historical, programmatic, formal and environmental; they’re all there. There is also significant condemnation of the money spent on the competition itself.

Since this argument has been on our minds over recent months, let’s take a quick mathematical look at it:

Prize money = $1,000,000
Competition organisation = ~ $2,000,000
Total competition cost = ~ $3,000,000

Number of Stage 1 entrants = 117
Average time spent on each Stage 1 entry = 400 hours
Number of Stage 2 shortlisted entrants = 6
Average time spent on each Stage 2 entry = 3,000 hours
Total time spent by all entrants = 64,800 hours
Average value of architects’ time = $180 / hour
Total value of architects’ time = $11,664,000

Our only response to those who believe the State Government has squandered the competition money in vain is this: they have never before spent so little to receive so much. If they and their federal counterparts could receive $4 value for every $1 they spend in every other area of their operations, we would truly be the luckiest country in the world.

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

6 thoughts on “Vote Flinders Street: conclusion”

  1. Your financial analysis at the end is spot on, Warwick. Can you send me a link to an equivalent situation in the accountancy, medical or legal professions where so much effort is provided for free? Yes, there is pro-bono work provided by these other professions but there is a beneficiary on the ground when these services are provided. Not so for the architect, artist or other creative engaged in competition. I understand that it’s a competition and it is voluntary but there is something distasteful about expecting so much from so many practitioners and providing so little to so many. It reminds me a bit of a a grand slam tennis tournament – the people who don’t make it past the first round barely cover their flights and the winners make enough money to by an aeroplane.

  2. Great article as usual
    Further to your comments about the excellent value for money that the competition offered the state governement, I would like to also point out the benefit by comparing it to the wise purchase of the Jackson Pollock painting Blue Poles. The price paid by the federal government in 1973 equates to approximately 10.9 million dollars in todays currency. So for less than a third of this price, the state government commissioned artworks from several of the best international architects along with many top tier Australian and local architects. The cultural value of these 118 designs is in addition to the infrastructure planning value of the winning design.
    For a grand total cost of less than a dollar per Melbournian, the Flinders Street Station Design Competition was money very well spent.

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