An 85 metre portrait of historic Indigenous Australian figure William Barak can be seen on the façade of a recently completed Melbourne apartment building by ARM Architecture.

ARM worked in consultation with elders from the Wurundjeri Aboriginal community, of which Barak was a former leader, to configure the balcony profiles of the 31-storey Swanston Square tower into a recognisable render of the famous artist’s portrait. 

All of the building’s northern balconies have been fitted with bespoke white-coloured blocks which contrast with dark steel balustrades to produce the outline of Barak’s face and hair. ARM said the façade was designed through the lens of line-art theory which sees distinct straight or curved lines drawn on plain backgrounds to represent three-dimensional objects and to emphasise form and outline.

Images: Eddie Jim and Kurt Solarte.

ARM said the building, which anchors the northern end of the Swanston Street axis and sit adjacent to the RMIT University library, will be a strong symbol of shared identity and heritage.

“The image of William Barak (c. 1824 - 15 August 1903) becomes the built form of the building,” reads a statement on ARM’s website.

“The cultural resonance of William Barak gazing down the civic axis of Melbourne towards the post federation Shrine of Remembrance, stands to unite the city’s modern heritage with its ancient history.”

Swanston Square also includes 530 apartments and a Sky Deck rooftop area with spas, cinema, BBQ facilities and a lounge.

Swanston Square is scheduled for completion 5th of March.