Our wintergarden transforms an interstitial space into something useful, social and beautiful. It has a glass roof to keep the aggressive northerlies out, and a view to die for.

Too often, spaces between buildings are wasted. These zones can be windy, dark, exposed, or even sinister. But the wintergarden, one of three ARM projects on the Swanston Square site, is a sheltered public space that fills the gap between our Barak Building and the neighbouring Bouverie Apartments. It is the only public location to face straight down Swanston Street, Melbourne’s main civic axis, with views to the end of the city grid and the Shrine of Remembrance beyond.

It is the first of several such spaces on the Swanston Square site, which will be delivered in stages. It connects to both apartment buildings with direct access to the retail outlets on the ground floors.

What is a wintergarden?

Wintergardens originated as elegant glass conservatories attached to the palaces of European nobility, built in the 17th to 19th centuries. They were places to cultivate exotic plants as well as useful living spaces. The first public wintergarden was gardener and MP Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. It was built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and featured 92,000 m2 of exhibition space plus the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building. After the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was moved to Penge Common in South London where it stayed until it burned down in 1936.

The wintergarden’s distinctive frame structure is derived from a Voronoi diagram. A Voronoi is a tessellating network of cells that occurs in many aspects of nature: butterfly wings, leaf veins—even honeycombs and bubbles. We have used it on other projects including the Melbourne Recital Centre, Gold Coast Cultural Precinct and M24 Apartments In this case, the cells were inspired by sections of a leaf. Or maybe Carlton and United Breweries beer bubbles.

In the wintergarden, the Voronoi determines the vertical frames that shape the space, and the way the ground is divided into planters, paved cells and grassed cells. Rush Wright Associates Landscape Architects created rainforest-inspired gardens inside.