The Art Gallery of NSW just revealed a $450 million expansion plan

The SANAA concept. Image: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales has unveiled plans to expand across grasslands to the northeast of the existing gallery, which director Dr Michael Brand has called the “Sydney Modern Project”.

The gallery announced on Wednesday that Tokyo architecture firm SANAA had won an international design competition for the $450 million extension, which it hopes to complete by 2021.

Dr Brand called the proposal “subtle and spectacular”.

“It responds to and respects the extraordinary beauty of the competition site through a series of pavilions that reach out to the Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour and Woolloomooloo,” he said. “The subtle profile of the pavilions complements and preserves the history of the existing Gallery building creating spaces that bring people together and foster a sense of community, imagination and openness.”

The SANAA concept. Image: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa.

A jury that included Australian architect Glenn Murcutt was unanimous in choosing the SANAA from a shortlist of four designs. Co-founder Kazuyo Sejima is one of the world’s most lauded female architects and the company is responsible for the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Musee du Louvre-Lens in northern France.

Architect Juhani Pallasmaa, who was on the competition jury, said the cascading, pavilion-like components of the SANNA design don’t dominate the site.

“It creates a respectful, refined and balanced dialogue with the existing Gallery building as well as the larger park setting. The various urban and landscape components of the site – the Domain, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the escarpment towards the Woolloomooloo Bay – are united into a relaxed and well-functioning entity with a natural flow of movement and views. The overall atmosphere of the project with its setting is unconstrained, cultured and stimulating,” he said.

A major expansion of the AGNSW has been high on Brand’s priority list since he took over from Edmund Capon in June 2012 after six years as director of the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The AGNSW is around half the size of its contemporaries in Melbourne and Canberra and more than 90% of the collection has to be stored off site.

The gallery will work with SANAA over the next 12 months to develop a final concept for the extension. The NSW government has provided $10.8 million in the budget for the next stage in the $450 million extension.

The SANAA design. Image: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa.

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