National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Key Contemporary Architecture Development in ACT – design by PTW

National Gallery of Australia Canberra


Design: PTW Architects

Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia

Client: National Gallery of Australia

National Gallery of Australia in Canberra

This project involves analysis of various aspects of the National Gallery of Australia building with the aim of reinforcing and enhancing the architecture of the existing building.

The primary focus is on the gallery entry which will be enhanced through the creation of a new ground level entry, activation of the ground level, and improved visibility and vehicle circulation. New entry facilities will include a function space, reception, cloaking, a small auditorium, bookshop, and café.

Opportunities for the display of art at entry will be created and the project will release space within the existing building for the display of art.

National Gallery of Australia Development Building information from PTW

National Gallery of Australia in Canberra design : PTW

In 1967 Prime Minister Harold Holt announced that the government would build an Australian National Gallery in Canberra to house the National Collection. Following Cabinet approval in 1970, the winning architect, Colin Madigan, was appointed to develop the complex that included the High Court of Australia on King Edward Terrace.

The major challenge in designing the National Gallery of Australia was how best to display works of art to the public, while conserving and storing these works in absolute physical and environmental security.

A further challenge was to accommodate curatorial, administrative and technical staff, and provide extensive facilities for the gallery’s educative, scholarly and public relations functions. James Sweeney, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, was employed as a consultant and proposed a plan based on a `spiral’ progression of galleries, of contrasting sizes and heights, allowing the greatest flexibility in the arrangement of exhibitions. Sweeney emphasised that viewers should not be distracted from the works of art by outside views through windows.

Much of the building is made of reinforced bush-hammered concrete — an example of Madigan’s philosophy that concrete has as much integrity as stone. Concrete slabs are the main facings for walls; they are also the major reinforcing structural component, enclosing and camouflaging numerous service shafts and ducts. Floor coverings vary: there is quarry-split slate in the lower level galleries. large brick tiles in the entrance level galleries, and wood (tulip oak) in the upper level galleries.

The National Gallery’s floor area is approximately 20,573 square metres; approximately 7,000 square metres are devoted to exhibition space.
source: National Gallery of Australia Building

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