NGV Architecture Commission 2023: (This is) Air by Nic Brunsdon

NGV-(This-is)-Air-by-Nic-BrunsdonA giant inflatable sphere – which literally breathes throughout the day – has been selected as the NGV’s 2023 Architecture Commission. Making the invisible visible, (This is) Air, developed by Nic Brunsdon in collaboration with ENESS, draws attention to one of the universal and defining features of life on Earth: breathing air.

Utilising air as a building material, the commission will morph and change throughout the day as it expands and then releases air in a natural rhythm. A poignant study of air and time, the fully inflated spherical structure will stand over 14 metres tall, evoking a sense of uplifting optimism.

Throughout the day, the structure will ‘exhale’, releasing gusts of air and forming an array of cloud-like configurations, before filling to capacity once more.

The structure invites audiences to consider humanity’s relationship to this essential and yet invisible element. By making air seen, heard and felt, the work highlights our connection to and dependency on air – a finite resource whose quality is becoming increasingly affected.

This year’s Architecture Commission forms part of the 2023 NGV Triennial exhibition, which brings contemporary art, design and architecture into dialogue, offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of the world today.

Three key thematic pillars of Magic, Matter and Memory anchor the NGV Triennial, with Brunsdon’s architectural concept responding to the thematic pillar of Matter.

This theme seeks to draw together nature, material and making, reminding audiences of the interconnected frameworks of biology, geology and physics while highlighting their relationship to and reliance on natural systems.

Throughout the summer months, (This is) Air will be the location for a myriad of public programs, performances and more in the NGV Garden.

“The annual NGV Architecture Commission offers a platform for Australian designers and architects to realise an ambitious new work of ephemeral architecture that pushes their practice into new and surprising frontiers,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director NGV.

“Since its inception in 2016, these imaginative structures have created a place for the community to come together, and many of these commissions have gone on to win some of the world’s most prestigious design and architecture awards.”

“This series truly exemplifies the NGV’s commitment to uplifting Australia’s outstanding design and architecture practitioners and showcasing their achievements to a global audience,” Mr Ellwood.

“The idea for this project was conceived by the architect during the global pandemic, when the air we breathed was suddenly at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” said Ewan McEoin, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture.

“Taking the form of a giant inflatable sphere, this living structure inhales and exhales before our eyes, giving presence to that omnipresent yet invisible element that connects us all.”

“Air can be understood as part of our global economic, social and ecological realities. And yet, the quality of air we breathe varies depending on where and how we live. Air is universal, yet clean air is not,” said Mr McEoin.

The 2023 NGV Architecture Commission is supported by The Hugh D. T. Williamson Foundation. The NGV Architecture Commission Design Competition process is developed and delivered by CityLab. Registrations for the 2024 NGV Architecture Commission are now open.

For the tenth annual NGV Architecture Commission in 2024 there will be an open format comprising of a two-stage design competition open to architects and multi-disciplinary teams. For more information visit:

The NGV Architecture Commission 2023: (This is) Air will be on display as part of the NGV Triennial 2023 from 3 December 2023 – June 2024 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Free entry. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Render of (This is) Air by Nic Brunsdon, the 2023 NGV Architecture Commission on display at NGV International, Melbourne from 3 December 2023 – render courtesy of Nic Brunsdon