Federation Square (also colloquially known as Fed Square) is a civic centre and cultural precinct in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It was opened in 2002.
It is a mixed-use development covering an area of 3.2 hectares and centred around two major public spaces: open squares (St. Paul's Court and The Square) and one covered (The Atrium), built on top of a concrete deck above busy railway lines. It is located at intersection between Flinders Street and Swanston Street/St Kilda Road in Melbourne's Central Business District, adjacent to Melbourne's busiest railway station.
Melbourne's first public square, an initiative of the Melbourne City Council was the City Square which dates back to 1968 was considered by many to be a planning failure. Its redevelopment in the 1990s failed to address serious flaws in its design as a public space and it was during this decade that the first plans for a new square were hatched by the Victorian state government.
The site selected was immediately south of the Hoddle Grid and included the twin towers of the former Gas and Fuel Corporation, Jolimont Yard and the Princes Bridge railway station (which was itself the former site of a 19th-century morgue). The government sought to remove what were considered to be two of Melbourne's great eyesores, demolishing the 1960s Gas and Fuel Corporation buildings which obstructed a vista of heritage buildings along Flinders Street including St Paul's Cathedral.
An architectural design competition was announced by premier Jeff Kennett in 1997 that received 177 entries from around the world. The design brief was to better connect Flinders Street to the Yarra River and to enhance and complement the neighbouring heritage buildings including St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders Street Station. Several shortlisted designs, which included entries from high profile architects Denton Corker Marshall and Ashton Raggatt McDougall, were displayed to the public. The winner, however, announced in 1997 was a consortium of Lab Architecture Studio directed by Donald Bates and Peter Davidson from London and local architects Bates Smart. The original design which was costed at between A$110 and $128 million included several five-storey "shards", two of which were free-standing on the north-western edge of the precinct. These two structures were intended to provide a framed view of St Paul's Cathedral from the St Paul's Court part of the new plaza, accentuating its size in a similar perspective inspired by the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica. A series of interconnected laneways and stairways would connect Flinders Street to the Yarra River with the open square featuring a large viewing screen for public events. These elements were widely supported by the design community and promoted as fulfilling the design criteria whilst also embracing the growing popularity of Melbourne's laneways. However, Lab's design was also source of great controversy causing outrage among heritage advocates, primarily due to the positioning of one of the shards.