Collingwood's industrial heritage is a key element in the design of a 17-storey apartment project to begin construction in June on the former Yorkshire Brewery site in Robert Street.
The heritage-listed brewery's impending redevelopment by Martin Strode's SMA Projects is the endpoint in a chequered recent history of neglect and planning opposition.
Last month Victoria's planning tribunal overturned a City of Yarra decision to reject a permit for 350 dwellings in and around the historic brew tower, cellar building, silos and stables which have been empty and rundown since it ceased operating in 1996.
The council had knocked back the brewery plans over concerns about the proposed building's height but VCAT's decision has cleared the way for the Hayball-designed $200 million, 350-dwelling complex to go ahead.
"We are responding to the spirit of the place which is 19th-century industrial," said Hayball architect Tom Jordan. To do that the firm has used a "minimalist" approach to merge the new structures with the site's historic buildings.
A central element of the development is the six-storey polychromatic brick brew tower, the site's most prominent historic feature.
Hayball has placed the largest new apartment building - set to soar above the neighbourhood's mix of predominantly medium-rise commercial buildings - well back from the brew tower, which itself will house large-floor plate "loft" apartments on each level.
The tower, with its mansard roof tiles and curved parapet, was the tallest building in Melbourne in the decade after it was built in 1876 by descendants of the brewery's founder John Wood.
A network of Collingwood's laneways will open onto a 480-square metre piazza in front of the tower. Nearby buildings will house a wine bar and deli convenience store. Other rundown portions, including the cellar and stables, will be restored and converted into residences using a mix of timber floors, exposed brick and concrete to reflect the development's past.
Lining the square will be 18 two-storey townhouses between 87 and 109 square metres in size.
"The architecture has to form a backdrop to some very important buildings. Where it's immediately adjoining or close to the heritage building, we've exercised a lot of restraint," Jordan said. "We're picking up on the sensibility of the place."
The site will house several buildings from three to 17 storeys, all with four-star Green Star as-built ratings.