- Article by Charlotte Huston
Spanning five floors, the new $50 million Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) designed by Denton Corker Marshall aims to be “live” building.
Housing more than 4000 artworks and launching with nine free exhibitions, the museum represents 200 artists and features 160 Indigenous and First Nations artworks.
Denton Corker Marshall’s competition-winning design for the regional Victorian museum sought to transform the architecture of the building itself into a backdrop for each and every piece.
“Every surface presents an opportunity for display, an event or installation,” explains the practice.
“The museum itself is characterised by simplicity and a clarity of materials and form.”
With a suite of new exhibitions and major artist commissions by emerging and established Australian artists, SAM includes one of Australia’s most significant South East Australian Indigenous regional gallery collections and the nation’s largest holding of Namajara family works as well as a significant line-up of ceramics.
The new building features four main gallery spaces that include a dedicated kids space, visitors centre and Aboriginal community arts centre, alongside an outdoor amphitheatre, cafe and 150-person event space and terrace.
With a restricted ground floor footprint, the 5300-square-metre structure is spread vertically to generate a distinctive “small and tall” art museum with views of a nearby lake and the Gouldburn Red River gum forest.
“Conceived as a land sculpture nestled into the surrounding landscape, it acts as a beacon in the low, flat topography,” explains Denton Corker Marshall.
Externally, the museum, which is the regional city’s tallest building, features four thin floating perforated L-shaped plates that reference the overhang of traditional Australian verandas.
Three of the plates are made of grey powder-coated aluminium, while the final is a “rich ochre-red corten steel.
“From a distance, the plates give virtually no indication of interior life and waits to be discovered and explored,” adds the architects.
“At their base, they float seemingly unsupported over an open, visibly accessible and highly activated ground plane. Each plate is simultaneously an object in its own right and an integral part of the whole.”
Positioned at different heights with contrasting materiality, the plates help integrate the main building into the Art Hill, providing shade for temporary installations or projection imagery.
The Art Hill itself creates an upper ground level, enabling the museum cafe to enjoy an elevated outlook while being directly connected to the park.
Internally, the museum is centred around an open, circulation galleria with the four different galleries totalling 800-square-metres.
The interconnected multi-level spaces, materials, texture with wayfinding by Studio Ongarato are overlaid with contrasts of “drama, reflection, outlook, information and discovery”.
As the only public art museum in Greater Shepparton and north-central Victoria, SAM is committed to presenting great art and contributing to cultural enrichment, community engagement and economic proposes in the region.
Highlights from its inauguration include a major survey exhibition of the work of renowned Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus, as well as an exhibition of more than 60 artists from SAM’s collection Flow: Stories of River, Earth and Sky in the SAM Collection featuring major new acquisitions shown for the first time and works from the Carrillo and Ziyin Gantner Collection of Australian Indigenous Art.
You can also catch a new commission by acclaimed Yorta Yorta, Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti and Boonwurrung artist, Maree Clarke, titled Connection to Country – I Remember When…, 2021.
Founded in 1972, Denton Corker Marshall operates worldwide from offices in Melbourne, Sydney, London, Manchester and Jakarta.
Photography: John Gollings unless otherwise specified.
Also in regional Victoria, Architectus has completed a $60 million City Campus revitalisation for Bendigo TAFE.
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