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Sydney Modern’s $344m ‘Deck of Cards’ Expansion

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Tokyo-based architecture studio SANAA has unveiled plans for Sydney Modern, a $344 million extension of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The 7,000sq m art museum, set to sit alongside the Art Gallery of NSW, is currently under construction with the building’s foundations currently being laid following the completion of demolition and earthworks.

SANAA, an architectural office led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa—two of the youngest-ever recipients of the Pritzker prize—has now revealed its plans for the new standalone building envisioned as a series of rectangular pavilions.

The firm was selected for the project in May 2015, on the basis of its proposal for a series of low-rise, glass-walled and white-roofed pavilions to be scattered over the site like “cards on a table”, cascading down towards Sydney’s Woolloomooloo bay.

▲ The interlocked pavilions will be connected by a large, multi-level atrium that will have views towards Sydney Harbour through glass walls.
▲ The interlocked pavilions will be connected by a large, multi-level atrium that will have views towards Sydney Harbour through glass walls.


Infrastructure New South Wales is managing the delivery of the project’s expansion on behalf of the NSW government and gallery.

The state government has contributed $244 million in funding towards the project, while the gallery has attracted $100 million in philanthropic support through fundraising.

The new building, being added to accommodate an increased visitation of 2 million people per year, will feature two galleries that are each more than 1,000sq m with 5.5-metre-high ceilings.

It will also incorporate a 2,200sq m columned underground art space repurposed from a decommissioned WWII naval oil tank that will display large-scale contemporary works.

Smaller spaces also feature, including a project gallery and a suite of galleries for multimedia works, in addition to integrated indoor and outdoor spaces—including accessible landscaped rooftop terraces and courtyards.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the design will allow art, architecture and landscape to combine in new ways to create a unique art museum experience.

“Sydney provides a unique perspective on the world that we are referencing for both the creation of new spaces and the revitalisation of our existing galleries.

“As we undertake this transformation, like many museums globally, we are working toward a more inclusive approach to engaging the public and a more global understanding of art.”


Infrastructure New South Wales is also implementing sustainable practices across the project, targeting a 6-Star Green Star design rating.

To meet these goals the building will implement sustainability initiatives such as water efficiency, rainwater harvesting, solar panels, and green roofs.

SANAA, founded in 1995, has completed two other major art gallery projects, the Glass Pavilion at Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art in 2006 and, in 2012, a Louvre satellite in the northern French town of Lens.

The studio is also known for its cloud-shaped port terminal building for Naoshima island and the 2009 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London.

“We hope the Sydney Modern project will be a special place for visitors to experience the shared joy of art and ideas in this unique and beautiful setting,” SANAA co-founder Kazuyo Sejima said.

“This is our first building in Australia, and we are delighted it is being realised.”

The gallery will remain open during construction, which is being overseen by Richard Crookes Construction.

Scheduled for completion in the first half of 2022, the Sydney Modern is expected to open its doors in the second half of that year.

The NSW government expects the gallery to contribute more than $1 billion to the economy during the next 25 years, as well as creating 250 full-time jobs.

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Article originally posted at: https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/sydney-modern-art-gallery