Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects


NGV Contemporary will be one of the largest purpose-built art and design galleries in the Southern Hemisphere, pushing the boundaries of how we experience art and design. The NGV Contemporary Design competition called for a landmark building that delivers best-in-practice gallery design.Our short listed proposal is the result of a collaboration between Bates Smart and Smart Design Studio, together with studioplusthree, specialists in experiential interior design, landscape designers Taylor Cullity Lethlean, engineering firms Arup and Eckersley O’Callaghan and brand identity and placemaking experts Studio Ongarato.

The concept is inspired by the sedimentary build-up of the earth, its layers and compression over time by gravity. The form we proposed was sliced to create a layered stratum of gallery floors. The building skin was wrapped, bent and folded to draw the Melbourne light into the buildings interior spaces while offering unique views of the Arts Precinct, city and gardens beyond. The circulation experience was designed in four-dimensions: to emphasize the feeling of movement, changes in time and the seasons felt throughout the building. The shimmering outer surface of iridescent glazed ceramic tiles is evocative of freshwater middens.

A transparent facade along Southbank Boulevard connects the gallery experience to the city and visa versa. Hit and miss tile ceramic screens allow dappled natural light in at key parts of the façade. Public realm interfaces have fully openable façades, drawing the city into the forecourt, dramatic entry, café, NGV design store and dedicated member function spaces. We proposed a dramatic space at the intersection of the public realm and museum called The Arrival Hall.



The Arrival Gallery would be the new living room of Melbourne. This vast hybrid public space is suitable for international events and artworks of varied scales. Open on three sides, a unique structural solution characterises the expansive column-free room, with mezzanines and balconies at upper levels. The visitor has an intuitive experience circulating between the Arrivals Gallery,  a large column free 4,000sqm gallery that occupies the entire Level 1 known as The Vertical Gallery, smaller galleries of different heights and characters, city and garden view terraces and a unique rooftop destination. Where appropriate we integrated education and public engagement opportunities in close proximity to the art. The art and passenger core is strategically located in the centre of the floor plate, enabling a contiguous experience of all galleries.

Our NGVC was conceived to maximise flexibility and allow for multiple configurations, with mezzanines that offer different vantagepoints for the public. These mezzanines, easily concealable, offers a secure and safe “behind the scenes” experience during every stage of the exhibition, an opportunity for the gallery to reveal its operations as a dynamic and engaging cultural vessel. The same principal of flexibility for configuration is applied to the medium and small galleries stacked overhead maximising programming flexibility and providing a fresh experience on each visit to NGVC.



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