To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in 2021, the Sydney, Australia-based art museum has revealed design details for SANAA’s first project on the continent: the Sydney Modern Project, which will recenter the AGNSW campus around a new gallery building.
The Sydney Modern Project is already under construction and expected to finish in 2022. The new building will connect to the existing neoclassical Gallery via a publicly accessible art garden, and from the renderings, the Tokyo-headquartered SANAA appears to have stacked and rotated boxy sections that cascade down to the landscaping and will install roof gardens on top of each. The massing could be read as a playful interpretation of the extant AGNSW, a collection of linear rectangular volumes that gently descend a slope. Sited on the waterfront, the glass walls of the new galleries will face both Woolloomooloo Bay and the larger Sydney Harbor, giving clear and unobstructed views of both.
The new building will also reorganize what art patrons experience first. The AGNSW specializes in Asian art from across the entire region, but SANAA’s addition will put Indigenous Australian art front-and-center: A 10,333-square-foot gallery at the building’s entrance will showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork, and the AGNSW has pledged to work with Indigenous artists to commission work. In total, the Sydney Modern Project will nearly double the AGNSW’s exhibition capacity from 97,000 square feet to 172,000 square feet.
Another dramatic feature of note will be the 23,700-square-foot underground gallery, which will showcase large-scale contemporary installations in what was formerly a decommissioned World War 2-era naval oil tank. In a press release put out today that dug into the design of the Sydney Modern Project, the AGNSW noted that the new gallery, complete with a 23-foot-tall ceiling, would house site-specific new artwork—from the renderings, the space’s forest of tightly-spaced columns will likely be integrated somehow.
A 13,993-square-foot “major exhibitions gallery,” 12,486-square-foot contemporary gallery, flexible learning spaces, studios for school participation, and art gardens on the new building’s roof terraces are all forthcoming as well.
The $246 million Sydney Modern Project was funded in part by contributions from the New South Wales government, which provided $174.5 million, and through private fundraising.