Expanding and Enhancing
With no significant expansion in over 30 years, the current spaces in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (the Gallery) are working beyond their capacity. By almost doubling existing space and enhancing the display area, the Gallery will be able to show more of its collection alongside major Australian and international exhibitions.
The Sydney Modern Project includes a new building designed by Tokyo-based architectural and design firm SANAA. Constructed to the north of the Gallery, the new stand-alone building will be connected to the existing building by an outdoor public art garden. Together, the two buildings and art garden will form an expanded art museum campus.
The construction site comprises two grassed concrete platforms – a land bridge over the Eastern Distributor and Cahill Expressway, and a roof on top of two disused World War II naval oil tanks. The new building will be constructed primarily on top of the oil tanks and include adaptive re-use of the tanks. Most of the land bridge will remain open space for the new public art garden.
The project features a new entry plaza; dynamic galleries; art dedicated studios for education and community programs; roof terraces and landscaping; retail; food and beverage facilities; in addition to the public art garden. One of the disused tanks will be repurposed into a unique art space and the other will be converted into back-of-house facilities and a state-of-the-art loading dock to service the new building.
The public art garden will be accessible 24/7 incorporating landscape, public amenities and outdoor art to create a new civic place for Sydney. The expansion will also include a new prominent destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Innovative and Sustainable Design
The Gallery has set a new sustainability standard by becoming the first art museum in Australia to achieve the highest environmental standard for design. The Sydney Modern Project has been awarded a 6-Star Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. This rating exceeds the Gallery’s original 5-star goal and sets a new standard for art museums globally.
WSP developed this holistic sustainability strategy for the Sydney Modern Project in conjunction with the architectural team and the Gallery during the design development phase of the project. Stretching the approach to go ‘beyond the brief’, sustainability was addressed across a broad range of aspects including operation, energy, ecology, water efficiency and transport.
A balanced perspective was required to develop a healthy and sustainable space for a variety of different art types, people, places and energy efficiency. Requirements had to be met for temperature and humidity set points and inertia controls for gallery spaces, as well as managing the exposure to solar radiation and natural lighting level limits. As a result, WSP developed an approach that prioritised achieving required conditions for artworks, whilst driving energy efficiency.
The Gallery also pursued sustainability objectives within the landscape. Completion of the project will result in 73% more trees than existed on the site prior to construction, with the Gallery planting more than double the number of trees removed. Outdoor areas will include an art garden, green roofs, courtyards, publicly accessible landscaped ‘art terraces’ and green walls. These areas will reflect the Australian landscape using native planting and existing topography, while improving the ecology and biodiversity of the site by establishing additional stands of native Australian flora.
Key sustainability initiatives identified during the design development phase of the project included:
- rainwater harvesting, storage and reuse systems to improve water efficiency;
- 250kW rooftop solar system;
- minimal car parking and enhanced bicycle storage for better transport options;
- use of low-impact materials;
- maximising daylight in circulation spaces and extensive use of LED lighting; and
- managing natural light and solar gain.
Sustainable features embedded into the design also included use of a brownfield site and the retention and reuse of structure from the WWII oil tanks to reduce embodied carbon impacts.