New South Wales (NSW) Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, has announced that the team led by Moreau Kusunoki (lead design architect) and Genton (local design architect) has won the international design competition for the new Powerhouse Parramatta.
“This announcement signals the next stage in the transformation and renewal of one of Australia’s oldest and most important cultural institutions,” said Mr Harwin. “Moreau Kusunoki and Genton will develop an exceptional design to carry forward the great legacy of the Powerhouse and its collection for future generations.”
The creation of Powerhouse Parramatta will mark the largest investment in arts and culture in NSW since the Sydney Opera House. Conceived as ‘welcoming and inclusive to the diverse communities of Greater Sydney’, Powerhouse Parramatta will transform and renew the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, relocating one of Australia’s oldest and most important cultural institutions.
Powerhouse Parramatta signifies a major shift in how Sydney thinks about itself, its culture and its communities – for the first time, a major cultural institution will be sited in Western Sydney, in Parramatta, at the metropolis’ geographical heart.
The winning French/Japanese and Australian team, Moreau Kusunoki and Genton, beat 73 teams (including 500+ individual firms) to triumph with their multi-faceted Powerhouse design concept, which re-connects the river with the city, creates generous open space where nature and people can interact, and presents the museum as an innovative cultural platform.
The distinguished Jury were unanimous in their decision and commended the proposal for its elegant design and strong identity. They commented that the generosity of space, transparency and lightness of the structure will create a ‘sense of joy’ that encapsulates the ambitions of Powerhouse Parramatta.
The Jury included Naomi Milgrom AO, Business Leader and Arts Patron (Jury Chair); Kim Crestani, City Architect, City of Parramatta Council; Jeanne Gang, Principal and Founder, Studio Gang Architects; David Gianotten, Managing Partner – Architect, OMA; Lisa Havilah, Chief Executive, Powerhouse Museum; Wendy Lewin FRAIA, Principal, Wendy Lewin Architect; and David Riches, Former Head of Projects, Infrastructure NSW.
Moreau Kusunoki and Genton’s museum proposal features a delicate latticed exoskeleton that will allow the public to see glimpses of the exhibitions and collection from the outside and give museum visitors spectacular views of the city and river.
The structural steel lattice amplifies the building’s efficiency, minimising its weight and carbon footprint, and the façade pattern evolves layer by layer – with the highest lattices created from structural timber, giving the impression of the Powerhouse dissolving into the sky.
Inspired by the site’s long history as a gathering space for cultural exchange and conviviality, the new Powerhouse Parramatta is orientated towards the riverfront, creating a shaded and green ‘breathing space’ for visitors and locals alike.
The 24-hour precinct will fluidly connect the museum with the surrounding streets and provide, in Moreau Kusunoki and Genton’s words, a ‘transparent urban lounge’ where visitors can re-connect with nature but also experience Parramatta’s lively social scene and cultural treasures, as it redefines itself as Sydney’s Central River City.
Challenging the perception of a conventional museum, Powerhouse Parramatta is envisaged as a multi-functional ‘hyper-platform’, at the core of which will be seven flexible Presentation Spaces. These will enable the museum to showcase its internationally-significant collection and host a dynamic program of changing exhibitions and immersive experiences.
Between the Presentation Spaces and the latticed exoskeleton will be an additional layer of space, inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘mâ’ – an in-between space which is activated by its users depending on need, enriching the spatial organisation of the museum. Interspersed throughout the building, these will be places for rest, relaxation and reflection and will be enhanced by museum activities and programming.
“Moreau Kusunoki, and our local collaborators at Genton, are grateful and thrilled about the opportunity to design the Powerhouse Parramatta,” said Moreau Kusunoki. “This is a very significant moment for the Powerhouse Museum and for the city, and we aspire to create a place that is inclusive and welcoming, in touch with the river, landscape, and Country.”
“We envisage the Powerhouse Parramatta as a hyper-platform, a building with limitless potential which continuously evolves. The built form treads lightly on the site, creating a porous ground plane. The architecture connects the city with the river, providing generous public space and creating an open 24-hour precinct that engages locals and visitors.”
Image: Powerhouse Parramatta – courtesy of Moreau Kusunoki and Genton ©