The GPO building itself provides challenges with regard to activating the street frontages of the building. The building is characterised by solid facades with minimal openings to the street, and large solid to void ratios with respect to windows.
The focus of activation for the public realm is therefore predominantly within the site. Access points are treated as thresholds or portals into the precinct – the pattern of a Middle Eastern bazaar being used as a precedent.
Internally the levels have been raised to match those of the existing GPO and Telephone Exchange buildings as well as the adjacent Dexus Plaza to the north of the site, both to maximise the frontage that has level access and to create a large internal plaza space for entering the buildings within the development. Level differences are resolved through a combination of ramps and passenger lifts.
Within the site, the public realm has been designed to maximise opportunities for activation. Movement patterns, both existing and potential have been used to determine the placement of the more active frontages (retail and food/beverage). These are typically located on the major thoroughfares into the site, with a concentration around where these thoroughfare intersect.
There are two main concentrations of retail frontage. The first is Exchange Place where the existing GPO and Telephone Exchange buildings will be opened up to the existing laneway and ‘trade out’ into this space.
The other is around the new atrium space around the northern face of the GPO where the rear of the GPO is opened onto this space.
The basement of the GPO is connected to the ground floor through a series of void spaces than provide visual and physical links from the internal plaza to the lower level spaces. This provides further opportunity for retail activity.
Post Office Place is envisaged as being the service lane for the development, fronted by mainly back of house functions, including loading docks and car park accesses. It will be designed as a shared use zone, with appropriate paving treatment. Activation as achieved where possible through glimpses into the buildings by returning the Franklin Street retail in Stage 2 around the corner and partially into the laneway.