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Our creative collective wins Powerhouse Ultimo competition

Our creative collective of designers, place makers and innovators has won the national Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal Design Competition to revitalise and expand the much-loved Sydney museum.

Our winning team is a design collaboration between Architectus, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, Tyrrell Studio and Youssofzay + Hart, working with Akira Isogawa, Yerrabingin, Finding Infinity and Arup.

Our team has reimagined Powerhouse Ultimo as a creative precinct beyond its walls, connecting the ever-changing life of the museum with the life of the modern city – all within a place that’s connected to, and in tune with, the ancient rhythms of Country.

The project will ensure the museum flourishes in Ultimo for generations to come. New and refurbished exhibition and public spaces will allow the museum to offer a dynamic applied arts and sciences program including design and fashion. In addition to showcasing its own collection in the most engaging ways, Powerhouse Ultimo will play host to exclusive, international exhibitions and programs supporting the creative industries.

With a $480-$500 million investment from the NSW Government, the renewal will also connect Powerhouse Ultimo to the Sydney CBD by re-orienting the museum to The Goods Line and linking it to nearby precincts. The changes are designed to make the museum a fulcrum for activity in the area – a drawcard day and night for visitors, contributing to the state’s vitality and prosperity.

The national design competition is being run by Create NSW, Powerhouse and Infrastructure NSW, along with a jury of architecture and culture experts chaired by Wendy Lewin, LFRAIA, Commissioner of the NSW Independent Planning Commission and Principal at Wendy Lewin Architects.

Following an Expression of Interest process, five design teams were shortlisted and invited to participate in the competition starting in September 2022, with the winning team announced this month.

Wendy Lewin said our winning scheme is “underpinned by a compelling and coherent vision” for the museum and wider precinct, noting that “designing and connecting with Country fully informed the conceptual development of the project and is meaningfully realised and embedded in all aspects of the physical architectural, functional, landscape and urban response.”

“The design approach centres on making subtle moves appropriate to the site – at times via ‘reparation’, at others through ambitious moves that will provide a distinctive museum experience internally and ‘unlock’ the site – supporting the generous public connectivity and access envisaged by the Powerhouse,” Ms Lewin added.

“This proposal presents a family of buildings which, through the varied representation of similar external materiality over time, reflect and respect the heritage and ethos of this innovative institution.”

Luke Johnson, Principal at Architectus, who brought together our multi-disciplinary team, said: “It is such a beautiful brief, one that pushes us to understand Country and be guided by millennia of environmental wisdom to reimagine a future of creative exhibition that is connected, restorative, sustainable and responsive. Our team is poised to give voice to this new time, for Indigenous foundations, agile city making and the alchemy of renewal.”

Camilla Block, Director at Durbach Block Jaggers and Design Director for the team, said: “Our design acknowledges Country as our inspiration and narrator, restoring a natural and intuitive experience of the city; walking with, rather than on, Country.”

“We’re honouring the heritage fabric by ‘leaning back’. We’re allowing the full heritage facades to be seen, creating a continuous walkable sky-expanding gorge between old and new, from the Creative Courtyard to the Gathering Terrace,” Camilla added. “Respectful and immediate, the reimagined building lives alongside the Powerhouse core, a powerful embodiment of both geography and backdrop.”

For more information, visit the Powerhouse renewal website.

Standing left to right: Alex Gelego (DBJ), Dr Stephen Long (Architectus), David Jaggers (DBJ), Neil Durbach (DBJ), Luke Johnson (Architectus), Ross Harding (Finding Infinity), John Jeffrey (Architectus), Chris Mercer (Arup)

Seated left to right: Ruth Wilson (Architectus), Christian Hampson (Yerrabingin), Akira Isogawa, Mark Tyrrell (Tyrrell Studio), Camilla Block (DBJ), Anne Kristin Risnes (DBJ), Belqis Youssofzay (Youssofzay + Hart)

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