Design for Powerhouse Ultimo revealed

Design for Powerhouse Ultimo revealed

Powerhouse Museum

December 16, 2022
Design for Powerhouse Ultimo revealed
Powerhouse Ultimo
500 Harris St
Ultimo NSW 2007
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Powerhouse Ultimo is set to undergo a transformation that will celebrate the best of its past with innovative museum exhibition and educational spaces, following the announcement of the winning architectural design for its renewal.

The concept designed by Australian team Architectus, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, Tyrrell Studio, Youssofzay + Hart, Akira Isogawa, Yerrabingin, Finding Infinity and Arup has been chosen to deliver a visionary world-class museum for the people of NSW, Australia.        

The team’s submission for the museum was unanimously selected by an expert jury following a national Design Competition, which commenced earlier this year.

The design contains expanded museum exhibition spaces, including international museum standard galleries for immersive exhibitions and learning programs. A new urban space connecting the museum to The Goods Line will create a major new public square for Sydney, increasing open public space that will support outdoor programs. The Harris Street frontage will be revitalised with creative studios that will support education and industry programs and will create new opportunities to access to the museum’s library and archive.

NSW Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin said the Powerhouse Ultimo renewal will reinvigorate one of Australia’s most revered museums, offering incredible museum experiences and expanded exhibition spaces that will provide new levels of access to the Powerhouse collection. The design will enable the museum to showcase international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the creative industries.

“I am thrilled with the jury’s unanimous decision, which will be the foundation of a dynamic and active museum precinct in the heart of Sydney’s CBD for communities to connect, for families to enjoy and creative industries to thrive,” Mr. Franklin said.

“I am particularly excited for the new Powerhouse Academy, which will offer a rooftop camp for secondary and tertiary students from regional NSW and beyond, providing an immersive learning experience in the heart of the city. This will provide a range of new opportunities for young people right across the State to engage with and explore the Powerhouse Ultimo’s internationally renowned exhibitions.

“The Powerhouse Ultimo renewal is part of the NSW Government’s record investment in cultural infrastructure, reinforcing Sydney’s reputation as a global cultural destination.

“Congratulations to Architectus, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, Tyrrell Studio, Youssofzay + Hart, Akira Isogawa, Yerrabingin, Finding Infinity and Arup on their winning design concept and I thank all the shortlisted teams for their bold and innovative ideas.”

Design Director Camilla Block said the Team is delighted to be selected and look forward to embarking on this career-defining project.

“The new building casts a reimagined lens on the heritage fabrics and cityscapes from multiple levels of this escarpment—from uses, circulation, terraces and gardens. Respectful and immediate, the reimagined building lives alongside the Powerhouse core, a powerful embodiment of both geography and backdrop,” Ms. Block said.

Chair of the Design Competition Jury Wendy Lewin thanked all jury members for their work in selecting the winning design.

“The Jury are confident that the winning design team will deliver a truly exceptional building for NSW, and importantly ensure the Powerhouse Museum can showcase its much-loved collection for future generations,” Ms. Lewin said.

“With a bold, defined approach to Country-centred design that is sensitive to the heritage of the site, and inspired by the memory of local sandstone escarpment, the winning scheme is in essence an Acknowledgement of Country in practice,” said Powerhouse Director, First Nations, Emily McDaniel.

Powerhouse Trust President, Peter Collins AM KC said, “The announcement of the Powerhouse Ultimo Design Competition is a transformative moment in the history of this beloved museum, signalling a new chapter that will ensure it best serves our communities for generations to come. I’d like to congratulate the Team and thank them for presenting such an exceptional and timeless example of contemporary Australian design.” 

Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah said the selection of the winning design was the next step in the renewal process and marked a culmination of years of work.

“Congratulations to the Team for their deeply considered response to the Ultimo site, honouring the history and heritage of the Powerhouse museum whilst simultaneously reimagining how we can continue to engage our communities into the future,” Ms Havilah said.

“Their internationally distinctive design will achieve a truly world-class museum that, alongside our flagship Powerhouse Parramatta, will fortify our role at the forefront of global contemporary museum practice.”

The national Design Competition saw more than 100 registrations of interest received from across Australia. Timing for construction commencement and completion of the Ultimo renewal is subject to planning, design and procurement processes.

More information here. Download images here

Media contacts
Emma Dunn, Minister Ben Franklin

emma.dunn [​at​] / T 0427 292 170 

Georgia McKay, Powerhouse
georgia.mckay [​at​] / T 0466 223 293 

Simon Thomas, Create NSW
simon.thomas [​at​] / T 0478 110 728

Powerhouse Ultimo Design Competition jury
Chair: Wendy Lewin LFRAIA
Abbie Galvin LFRAIA Government Architect, GANSW / Lisa Havilah Chief Executive, Powerhouse / Alison Page Associate Dean (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement), Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney / Annette Pitman Chief Executive, Create NSW / Peter Poulet LFRAIA Central District and Southern District Commissioner, Greater Sydney Commission and Professor of Practice, Western Sydney University School of Architecture.

Wendy Lewin LFRAIA: spokesperson on the jury
Wendy Lewin is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects and currently heads her own architecture studio. Wendy’s studio undertakes projects spanning multiple sectors including residential, commercial, cultural, and educational facilities. She has a deep interest in exhibition design and was a creative director for the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale. Wendy Lewin is committed to design education and for over thirty years has taught at various universities including the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and Hong Kong University, and has chaired and participated in numerous state, national and international design competition juries.

Lisa Havilah: spokesperson on the vision
Lisa Havilah is the Chief Executive of Powerhouse. Through her leadership she is establishing a new museum paradigm for one of Australia’s oldest and most important cultural institutions. From 2012 to 2019, Lisa was the Director of Carriageworks. Under her leadership Carriageworks experienced extraordinary audience, artistic and commercial growth, becoming the fastest growing cultural precinct in Australia. From 2005 to 2011, Lisa was the Director of Campbelltown Arts Centre, pioneering an internationally renowned contemporary arts program that brought together culturally and socially diverse communities.

About Powerhouse
Powerhouse sits at the intersection of arts, design, science and technology and plays a critical role in engaging communities with contemporary ideas and issues. We are undertaking a landmark 1.4 billion AUD infrastructure renewal program, spearheaded by the creation of the flagship museum, Powerhouse Parramatta; expanded research and public facilities at Powerhouse Castle Hill; the renewal of the iconic Powerhouse Ultimo; and the ongoing operation of Sydney Observatory. The museum is custodian to over half a million objects of national and international significance and is considered one of the finest and most diverse collections in Australia. We are also undertaking an expansive digitisation project that will provide new levels of access to Powerhouse collections.

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