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Architect chosen for Australia House

October 4, 2011

Sydney studio Andrew Burns Architect wins competition to design Australia House exhibition space for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in rural Japan.

Sydney-based studio Andrew Burns Architect has won the competition to design a new exhibition space for Australian art at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Japan.

Burns’ submission was selected from a pool of 154 proposals to the competition, which called for concepts for a new Australia House to be used at the contemporary international arts festival – held every three years in the Echigo-Tsumari region of Niigata Prefecture.

The competition was launched in June this year after the previous Australia House, an abandoned Japanese-style farmhouse that had been used as the exhibition space for Australian artists since 2009, was severely damaged in the Japanese earthquake in March. The competition required a small building of up to 130sqm that would provide exhibition and living space for artists in residence. The brief also called for a building that would support the festival’s aim to revitalise an underpopulated region of rural Japan, with a design that incorporated both Japanese and Australian cultural influences.

Burns’ proposal is for a small-scale exhibition and installation space that is triangular in plan, with an exterior volume that appears as an art object from one approach, and a domestic building from another. The main facade of the building features acute angles, while from the courtyard the building features an abstracted verandah, giving it a domestic presence. A slanted roof with a large eave provides shade in summer and shelter from heavy snowfall in winter.

The building’s form takes visual cues from traditional Australian farmhouses and the Japanese minka. A series of hinged full-height panels reference the windows of the Australian Georgian farmhouse, while the steep roof alludes to the form of the minka. Three different gallery spaces within the building are wide, long and tall, providing a sequence of spatial experiences, while openings encourage installations to engage with the landscape.

Entries to the competition were assessed by head of the jury Tadao Ando, along with jurors Tom Henegahn, architect and professor at the Department of Architecture, Tokyo University of the Arts and former Chair of Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, and Fram Kitagawa, General Director of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.

The jury said Burns’ concept met the competition brief for a reasonable, robust and small building. Tadao Ando commented: “It is difficult to form a triangle. However, it could create an interesting architecture since it is difficult. I find the approach to the house attractive and different elements well arranged. The idea of dealing with snow is thoughtful, considering that the site is located in [an area of] heavy snowfall. It would be fantastic if only the triangle roof were visible as the rest of the house is covered with three-metre-high snow.”

Second place was awarded to B.A.M.F for their entry, ‘Between Art and Nature’, while five teams received commendations: Tomohiro Hata Architect and Associates, Andrew Burges Architects, John Wardle Architects, SAKUMASTUDIO, and Shuichiro Yoshida + Edwards Moore Architects.

Burns will visit the site later this month, with construction on the project due for completion by July 2012 in time for the 2012 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.

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