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Q&A: Hassell and Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project at WAF

Hassell recently presented its gigantic Metro Tunnel Project at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) alongside collaborators Weston Williamson and RSHP. We spoke to Hassell principal Ingrid Bakker about the scale of the work and what’s driving the design.

Q&A: Hassell and Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project at WAF

Town Hall Station - City Square, all images concept only.

Timothy Alouani-Roby: Metro Tunnel is an enormous project – how do you go about the initial stages of comprehending its scale, factoring in all the different considerations and coming up with a coherent big-picture approach? 

Ingrid Bakker: The Metro Tunnel will change the way we move around Melbourne, unlocking new parts of our city and new ways of engaging with those places we love today. While the Metro Tunnel reflects global best practice transport planning, it’s also uniquely Melbourne. 

Ingrid Bakker on Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project
State Library Main Entrance.

The project will deliver a legacy of outstanding stations and precincts. The architecture embraces natural light and openness – reflecting our city’s playful spirit and civic pride. The designs reflect and amplify unique qualities of each place and celebrate craft and detail. Embedded artworks will reveal local stories, values and connections. 

The overarching design approach is underpinned by a number of key drivers:

  • Open to daylight, air, views and people;
  • Extending the character and materials of each public realm and integrating the surface level with the station below;
  • Connection – a design that provides connections to nature and our Indigenous culture (through landscape and public art);
  • Identity each station responds to its local context at ground level and becomes more consistent below ground to maximise customer experience and familiarity for station users. High-quality facilities and an open-plan arrangement with clear sightlines are maximised to enhance safety and the perceptions of safety for all users.
  • Authentic – honesty of expression to celebrate the structure, engineering and customised components. 
  • Distinctive – The stations are identifiable elements within the city and linked together by linewide elements. 
Ingrid Bakker on Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project
Arden Station – Laurens Street.

How important are biophilic considerations? 

It was a big emphasis in the architectural brief but the reality is the designs are more about embracing the best aspects of nature, such as fresh air and daylight and incorporating them into the station designs rather than simply mimicking nature.    

How does your approach differ from the way a similarly large infrastructure project might have been understood in the past? 

Melbourne hasn’t had a project of this scale for a very long time. There has been a lot of sensitivity in terms of how each station is integrated into the existing fabric of the city, how each design respects the surrounding heritage buildings and how important it’s been to engage with different stakeholders from Traditional Owners to universities, hospitals and the City of Melbourne. 

In terms of heritage we’ve been particularly sensitive. At Anzac Station, for example, we integrated light canopies so as not to impact on the shrine and the boulevard. 

Related: Talking to Kerstin Thompson at WAF 2023

Anzac Station, Albert Road View.

How important is the exposure at WAF and how does this Australian infrastructure project compare with trends internationally? 

As an international design firm, it’s important to showcase our Australian projects on a global stage such as WAF

The five stations are very generous with a lot of attention to design detail. Compared to places like Singapore, where station design is quite modest, the stations and surrounding landscape design for Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project make a statement. The decision to provide generous, open designs was quite a conscious one. 

Melbourne’s five new Metro Tunnel stations are a collaboration between international design practices Hassell, Weston Williamson and RSHP as part of the CYP D&C Joint Venture.


Parkville, Grattan Street Entrance.

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