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art gallery NSW unveils more details about SANAA's 'sydney modern project'

the art gallery of new south wales (AGNSW) has announced more details about its ‘sydney modern project’, a plan to transform the institution’s existing campus with a building designed by SANAA. the new structure will sit in contrast to the gallery’s 19th-century neo-classical building, with a public art garden connecting the two. typically light, transparent, and open to its surroundings, SANAA’s design responds to the site’s topography with a series of pavilions that cascade down towards sydney’s woolloomooloo bay. importantly, the new building will almost double the museum’s exhibition space, from 9,000 to 16,000 square meters (97,000 to 172,000 square feet).

art gallery NSW SANAA
all images of the sydney modern project as produced by kazuyo sejima + ryue nishizawa / SANAA © AGNSW



in the SANAA-designed building, works by indigenous artists will be the first to be encountered by visitors as they enter, installed in a dedicated 960 square meter gallery (10,333 sqf). pieces from the AGNSW’s internationally significant permanent collection will also be displayed as part of the curatorial narrative across the entire campus, celebrating australia’s cultural heritage as well as its contemporary expressions.

art gallery NSW SANAA



the new building will also incorporate a vast, dramatic, columned underground art space repurposed from a decommissioned WWII naval oil tank that will display large-scale contemporary works. the 2,200 square meter gallery (23,700 sqf) with 7-meter-high ceilings (23 ft) will be used for specially commissioned installations and site-specific performances. other spaces in the new building include a major exhibition gallery that will host national and international shows, as well as a column-free contemporary gallery with a glazed facade overlooking woolloomooloo bay.

art gallery NSW SANAA



smaller galleries, including a project gallery and a suite of spaces for multimedia works, are featured as part of the project, in addition to integrated indoor and outdoor spaces — including accessible landscaped rooftop terraces and courtyards. meanwhile, an emphasis has also been placed on educational facilities and programming as well as flexible spaces to support public programs, such has performances and lectures.

art gallery NSW unveils more details about SANAA's 'sydney modern project'



‘SANAA’s sublime design allows us to bring together art, architecture and landscape in spectacular new ways to create a unique art museum experience for everyone to enjoy in our vibrant global city,’ says dr michael brand, director of the art gallery of new south wales. ‘sydney provides a unique perspective on the world that we are referencing for both the creation of new spaces and the revitalization of our existing galleries. as we undertake this transformation, like many museums globally, we are working toward a more inclusive approach to engaging the public and a more global understanding of art.’



‘it has been wonderful and an honor to design such an important public building in sydney with michael brand and his team,’ says kazuyo sejima, co-founder of SANAA. ‘we hope the sydney modern project will be a special place for visitors to experience the shared joy of art and ideas in this unique and beautiful setting. this is our first building in australia, and we are delighted it is being realized.’

art gallery NSW unveils more details about SANAA's 'sydney modern project'



thanks to sustainability initiatives such as water efficiency, rainwater harvesting, solar panels, and green roofs, the green building council of australia has awarded the project a 6-star green star design rating. the existing gallery building remains open throughout construction, which is already underway. completion of the $344 million AUD project (approx. $246 million USD) is scheduled for late 2022. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.

art gallery NSW unveils more details about SANAA's 'sydney modern project'



project info:


name: sydney modern project
location: sydney, australia
architect: SANAA
client: art gallery of new south wales (AGNSW)
cost: $344 million AUD (approx. $246 million USD)
status: under construction, expected completion by late 2022
previous coverage: november 2018, november 2017, may 2015


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