Next Time You Visit Melbourne Check Out The Building With A ‘Face’

Melbourne is home to an architectural world first. A 32 story apartment building situated in Swanston Street has been named ‘Portrait’ as it features a sculpted face of William Barack the last traditional elder of the indigenous Wurundjeri-William clan.

William Barack born 1824 became an influential spokesman for Aboriginal social justice and cultural lore. Working tirelessly for his people and a successful negotiator on their behalf, he was a highly respected man and leader, with good standing amongst the Indigenous people and the European settlers of the time.

William was renowned for working to bridge the divide between black and white Australians. William Barak is now best remembered for his artworks, which show both traditional Indigenous life and encounters with Europeans. The artworks are now highly prized and exhibited in leading public galleries in Australia.

Williams work is now on permanent display in the National Gallery of Victoria Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square, Melbourne. The 85-metre tall face was created by Ashton Raggatt McDougall Architects, working in close consultation with Wurundjeri people to produce the image. ARM first took an existing photograph of William Barak and digitally converting it into horizontal bands of black and white.

The bands were of varying vertical thicknesses. Once this was complete the bands were converted into 3D molded panels for the balustrades. Joined together the panels, when viewed with the human eye from a distance create the portrait. The optimal distance to view the portrait is the Shrine of Remembrance in the city, approximately 2.8 kilometers away. As you get closer to the building the portrait starts to disappear and the curved balconies can be seen instead.

At the base of the building, the carpark has a grid of circular potholes of which some are covered with aluminum discs that form a pattern which reads “Wurundjeri I am who I am” in braille. The northern and western facades of the building are superimposed with a colorful heat map, representing the lives and bodies inside the apartment complex. Costing a reported $350 million, the project was realized and completed in seven years, officially opening on the 5th March 2015.