|Denton Corker Marshall - Melbourne Museum|
|Thursday, 28 July 2011 08:23|
The building is one of Melbourne’s recent landmarks, completed over a decade ago. Back in 1994, Australian Architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall won an international competition to design a new campus for the Museum of Victoria. Now known as ‘Melbourne Museum’, it is the primary and largest site for Victoria’s most important cultural institution.
The museum comprises exhibition clusters, an Imax theatre, a touring exhibition hall, a separate Children’s Museum and an Aboriginal Cultural Centre, as well as research and administration facilities in a 70,000m2 campus of building forms.
Located on an extremely sensitive site, adjacent to the World Heritage Listed 1880s Royal Exhibition Building, the response demanded a building that would not overpower its older neighbour, but one that still had a presence in its own right. The brief called for "a campus of elements", rather than a singular monumental object. All the elements are grouped around the north/south extension of the park and the Royal Exhibition Building.
The Forest Gallery, a large lightweight enclosure housing trees, birds, insects and fish, waterfalls and other elements of a Victorian temperate forest, forms the centre point of this axis.
The distinctive blade roof at the rear of the museum is an architectural response to the dome on the Royal Exhibition Building – a complementary iconic skyline element. The canopy that slopes down towards the centre, another eye-catching element, serves to draw visitors from both streets on either side of the site.
There are three different types of exhibition spaces: adaptable ‘black box’ spaces for object-driven exhibitions; more architecturally driven galleries where larger objects are displayed; and areas that break away from the grid such as the Children’s Museum and the Aboriginal Centre, blurring the lines between being buildings and exhibits in their own right. Breaking it down into boutique museums off a central gallery space means that visitors can sample sections at a time, without following a specific route, always returning to the gallery which has seating areas, toilets, the museum shop and cafes.
The plan groups these various architectural elements beneath an enveloping and controlling grid framework. This volumetric framework is significant because it allows the complex to be read as a unified campus of interconnected facilities with distinguishable characters and functions. Recognisable architectural features help visitors to recall where the various facilities are located. The 14x14m steel framework houses glazing and grillage over the rooftop plant. The resultant computer chip-like pattern of the roof plan suggests an image of advanced technology for the Museum, while the formal qualities make reference back to the Melbourne city grid.
Administrative and research facilities are visible to the visitor, to enable people to see first hand the art of collection, conservation and restoration.
RAIA National Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Most Outstanding Work of Public Architecture in Australia 2001
RAIA Victorian Architecture Medal, Project of the Year 2001
RAIA Victorian Chapter William Wardell Award (Institutional - New) 2001
All photographs by JOHN GOLLINGS