$344 million expansion of Art Gallery NSW to begin early next year

Known as the Sydney Modern Project, the $344 million gallery expansion will see seven interlocking pavilions built in front of the pre-existing gallery. Picture: Art Gallery NSW

SANAA’s plans to expand Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales have been granted planning approval, roughly three years after the renowned Japanese architects won an invited competition to take on the project.

Known as the Sydney Modern Project, the $344 million gallery expansion will see seven interlocking pavilions built in front of the pre-existing gallery, across seven levels that mirror the natural slope of the terrain.

Art Gallery NSW expansion

SANAA’s seven pavilions will primarily be built on top of decommissioned WWII naval oil tanks. Picture: Art Gallery NSW

Work on the project, which will result in a doubling of student and teacher visits to 200,000 per year and include a new prominent destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, will begin in early 2019 and should be completed in 2021, in time for the gallery’s 150th anniversary.

The Gallery’s director, Michael Brand, said he was “delighted” that the expansion plans had been approved.

“Our transformed institution will represent Sydney’s bold spirit as a leading 21st-century art museum with a deep commitment to both Australian and international art,” he said in a media release.

“SANAA’s sublime building will deliver us much-needed new spaces to show more art to more people – a rightly ambitious goal for our great global city.”

Primarily built on top of decommissioned WWII naval oil tanks, the pavilions will include a shop, new exhibition spaces, food and drink outlets, research and education spaces, services infrastructure, and roof terraces.

Natural stone facades will ensure continuity with the existing building, which will be linked to the new site by a public art garden that sits above the Eastern Distributor and Cahill Expressway, and one of the tanks will be converted into a contemporary art space, marking the first time the State asset has been made publicly accessible.

Oil tank gallery

The project will convert a former Navy fuel tank into a contemporary art space. Picture: Art Gallery NSW

According to SANAA, “harmony with the landscape” and a recognition of the site’s importance to the traditional owners of the land were two key design priorities.

“It is a challenging site including a land bridge over a road and a concrete roof over disused oil tanks,” an Art Gallery NSW online article quotes them as saying.

“Our intention is that the site will be of greater benefit to the people of Sydney and Australia, and visitors from around the world than it is currently.”

The project has also paid attention to sustainability, with the new building becoming the first public art museum in the country to achieve the Green Building Council of Australia’s 6-star Green Star design rating.