Powerhouse Ultimo reveals transformative design

Jan 9, 2023
  • Article by Clémence Carayol

Powerhouse Ultimo is set to undergo a transformation that will celebrate the best of its past with innovative museum exhibitions 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 have been chosen to deliver a visionary world-class museum for the people of NSW.

“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,” says Powerhouse director and First Nations woman Emily McDaniel.

The design contains expanded museum exhibition spaces, including international museum standard galleries for immersive exhibitions and learning programs. 

“It is such a beautiful brief, one that pushes us to understand Country and be guided by millennia of environmental wisdom to reimagine a future of creative exhibition that is connected, restorative, sustainable and responsive,” says Architectus principal Luke Johnson. 

“Our team is poised to give voice to this new time, for Indigenous foundations, agile city making and the alchemy of renewal.”

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. 

“Our design acknowledges Country as our inspiration and narrator, restoring a natural and intuitive experience of the city; walking with, rather than on, Country,” says Durbach Block Jaggers director and team director Camilla Block. 

“We’re honouring the heritage fabric by ‘leaning back’. 

“We’re allowing the full heritage facades to be seen, creating a continuous walkable sky-expanding gorge between old and new, from the Creative Courtyard to the Gathering Terrace. Respectful and immediate, the reimagined building lives alongside the Powerhouse core, a powerful embodiment of both geography and backdrop.”

The Harris Street frontage will be revitalised with creative studios that will support education and industry programs and will create new opportunities to access the museum’s library and archive.

The Powerhouse Ultimo renewal will reinvigorate one of Australia’s most revered museums, offering incredible museum experiences, and expanded exhibition spaces, which 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.

The new Powerhouse Academy 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.

According to Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah, 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,” she says.

The national design competition saw more than 100 registrations of interest received from across Australia. 

The winning design team has created a deeply considered response to the Ultimo site, honouring the history and heritage of the Powerhouse museum whilst simultaneously reimagining how the Powerhouse can continue to engage communities and visitors into the future.

The internationally distinctive design is set to achieve a world-class museum that will fortify the Powerhouse Museum’s role, at the forefront of global contemporary museum practice. 

Renders: Powerhouse Ultimo renewal concept design

Learn more about the immersive multimedia exhibition Gucci Garden Archetypes at Powerhouse Ultimo.

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