The Yardmaster’s Building / McBride Charles Ryan

© John Gollings

Architects: McBride Charles Ryan
Location: ,
Design Team: Rob McBride, Debbie Ryan, Drew Williamson, Andrew Hayne, Fang Cheah, Michelle James, Scott Crowe, Johanna Brunner, Angela Woda, David Fraser
Area: 1,350 sqm
Year: 2009
Photographs: John Gollings

© John Gollings

Within the gritty rail yard environment, squeezed between a space formed by the divergence of V-Line tracks at the end of platforms 5 and 6, the Yardmasters Building is a multi-use facility for the various workers and operations associated with the Southern Cross Rail Yard. A service building that in years passed may have been treated in a pragmatic and unremarkable way.

© John Gollings

Although inaccessible to the public, the extreme exposure of the building renders it highly visible from a number of vantages. Its inaccessibility, the no-mans land of the rail yard environment, became an opportunity: what was proposed was a jewellery box of exquisite proportions, its mystery amplified by its contrast to the grit that surrounds it. In providing delight to the rail experience, it says that public infrastructure matters and, by extension, that the public matter. The delicate polished patterning belies a robust and sophisticated façade that drastically minimizes energy consumption and takes sustainability seriously without the clip-ons.

© John Gollings

The complexity and cost of constructing within a rail environment is significant. The strategy was to minimize on site construction, rail disruption and therefore cost. This involved providing as much architectural value off-site as possible. A double skin pre-caste concrete system was used. Within the outer ‘biscuit face’ a pattern was caste, the relief polished. The panel system required multiple processes not attempted before. They provided enormous value in terms of the buildings aesthetic and thermal performance. Exposed internal mass, insulated from the outside environment is supplemented by a chilled beam A/C system. Windows are sealed from free airborne particles and the fumes of the rail environment.

© John Gollings

The project required consultation with representatives of the diverse users, their respective union representatives, management and relevant and associated authorities. The complexity of the stakeholder group and their multiple interests required a strategy of developing a simple flexible shell. The progress of the building, its public interface would then not be held hostage to the inevitable machinations of a complex stakeholders mix.

© John Gollings

The internal layouts are simple and partitioned. Inevitable this will change as it did many times throughout the design process. Internally the building is robust and matter of fact, measured without appearing frugal.  For us each room was to have at least one beautiful and exotic window.

© John Gollings

The building was carefully cost managed. Panel sizes geared towards optimizing production and minimizing energy.   Materials were chosen for their robustness – maintenance in this environment comes at too high a price.  The patina was to match the rusted charcoal of its environment, as if it had always been there or simply emerged from the ground. This building is moody, and with the Melbourne weather it changes rapidly. So no matter how bad the day was, the last minute burst of late afternoon sun reminds us that it was truly worth it.

First Floor Plan

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "The Yardmaster’s Building / McBride Charles Ryan" 13 Mar 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Sep 2014. <>


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    Can you at least credit the gird on the facade and mention that it is Oriental/Islamic? It’s kinda considered as a cultural infringement if you don’t mention so.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Hey! the pattern on the facade is an Islamic grid! how can you forget to mention so!

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