BKK and Publicis Sapient renew ACMI as “experience-led architecture”

Feb 16, 2021
  • Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim

ACMI in Melbourne’s Federation Square has reopened to the public after a $40 million renewal project. 

The ACMI team wanted the redevelopment to be an experience-led architectural transformation, appointing Melbourne-based BKK Architects to work in parallel with exhibition and experience designers Publicis Sapient 

The blended approach created a clear remit for both organisations whilst at the same time demanding each team hold conceptual tension and work in partnership on a shared set of outcomes. 

This outcome was to create a seamless transition in scale and experience; from city to museum, from street to laneway, from foyer to exhibition, from the physical to the digital. 

“ Our ambition for the design was to create a civic space at the heart of ACMI that stitches together all of its unique offerings and connects the museum to the city and its citizens,” says BKK principal Tim Black.

The architectural team achieved this by re-establishing the central atrium space in the Alfred Deakin Building as a Melbourne laneway, one that extends across Flinders St to Federation Square and down to the Yarra River.  

Internally, ACMI has been designed to be experienced in three main ways: watching, playing and making.

“ A proportion of visitors will likely find it challenging to see themselves as ‘hands-on’ makers and whilst we designed some experiences that draw people into ‘doing things’ we understand that some visitors will prefer to observe rather than actively participate,” says Bradley Grinlinton, director, client services at Publicis Sapient director.

“As such striking a balance and rhythm between these three modes throughout the space was one of the key elements of our design.”

Central to creating this rhythm is experience is a near-field communication collection and storage device for use by visitors. 

Known as the ‘ACMI Lens’, it’s a lightweight cardboard disc that allows people to interact with touchpoints throughout the Permanent Gallery, to collect and store their favourite exhibits, to download and delve deeper later at home.  

The Lens aims to extend and enhance the visitor experience beyond the museum – leveraging the hybridized physical-digital existence of our everyday lives.

“We are at a pivotal moment in moving image culture. The moving image is shifting from 2D to 3D and beyond into new realities. The way people create and experience the moving image has changed exponentially and continues to change faster than ever,“ explains Grinlinton.   

“Our vision for the new ACMI seeks to position it as playing an important role in this new world by providing a historically rich context in which to experience this transformation, creating literacy and opportunity for everyone to have a stake and a voice in what is to come.” 

ACMI’s opening weekend has been postponed but you can still browse their virtual collection here. 

Photography by Shannon McGrath.

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