‘No tricks, no foreigners’: challenge set for Melbourne’s new art home

A competition to design Melbourne’s new contemporary art museum opens on Friday with a challenge to create “architectural magnificence” and a building that will be regarded as one of country’s great landmarks.

NGV Contemporary, the cornerstone of a $1.46 billion state government plan to redevelop the Southbank arts precinct, will be the biggest of its kind in the country with 30,000 sqm of floor space, and will house the NGV’s growing collection of contemporary arts, design and fashion.

Artist impression of NGV Contemporary (gallery building to be designed) viewed from the new public garden. Credit:HASSELL + SO-IL

The competition will be strictly for locals. Only Australian teams can enter, and at least one team member must be a Victorian business.

NGV director Tony Ellwood, who will be one of the competition’s judges, said this was an extraordinary opportunity for Australian architects, which would avoid a “kind of sameness in big cultural projects” around the world.

“This is an incredible opportunity for some architectural magnificence,” he said. “It’s a project that’s about expressing great creative energy and civic pride. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t go with something that has a real signature to it, and will be regarded as one of the great architectural buildings in the country.“

Art museums make up some of the most recognisable buildings in the world: the Guggenheims in Bilbao and New York; the Pompidou in Paris.

Ellwood said he wanted Melbourne’s new building to be unlike anything he’d seen before.

The Pompidou Centre, which Piano co-designed in 1971.Credit:Getty

“That’s the excitement of an Australian-only approach,” he said. “This is an opportunity to create a sense of space and wonder we’ve never seen.“

The winning design would have to be sophisticated rather than a “one-off flamboyant trick”, he said, with the character to generate cultural tourism.

One Australian already keen to compete is Sam Marshall, the architect behind the widely-admired 2012 extension to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sydney’s Circular Quay.

Marshall welcomed the decision to make it an all-Australian competition.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain – another landmark building.Credit:Shutterstock

“The architectural talent in this country is amazing, as good as any overseas,” he said. “I don’t understand why we reach out to get overseas ‘star-chitects’. An Australian will rise to the occasion, it won’t be one of these overseas firms who crank these out all the time and would think ‘oh, one more down in the colonies’.”

The competition runs this year over four stages: a two-part expression of interest round then a two-part design round for eight finalists. A successful design team and preferred design will be considered by the government and announced in summer 2021/22.

Marshall said the competing teams would face huge challenges.

“The most important thing is that the art is respected,” he said. Contemporary art can be huge and heavy, or tiny and intimate. Interior rooms would have to be big and flexible.

Smart lighting that can range from daylight to darkness was essential. Floors would have to bear big weights, and ceilings hang huge sculptures.

“Contemporary art is not straightforward,” Marshall said.

On the outside the building would have to work “in conversation” with its NGV neighbour, but also make a statement.

“An art gallery has to be something inspiring, something different,” he said.

“It should be something unique, like the works inside. It’s a big one – and it’s a hard one.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement that the building would be a “global icon” whose construction would boost the state’s economic recovery. Arts minister Danny Pearson said it was an extraordinary opportunity “to shape our creative state for decades to come”.

Most Viewed in Culture

Source: Read Full Article