We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

A new welcome to the Art Gallery of New South Wales: First look at transformed civic space in Sydney

7 August 2021

Architectural render of the Art Gallery of New South Wales forecourt produced by bloomimages Berlin GmbH © Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2021. 

The Sydney Modern Project, which is expanding and transforming the Art Gallery of New South Wales, will feature a new civic gathering space outside the main entrance of its historic building. 

The Art Gallery has released a first look at the design for the new forecourt by internationally renowned landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson and Seattle firm GGN ahead of the commencement of construction works.

The design significantly expands public use of the space and includes two reflection pools with ample seating along the perimeter. New trees will provide additional shade within the enhanced landscape connecting the forecourt to the outdoor art campus, created around and between the existing gallery and new building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA, currently under construction.   

The shallow pools, crafted from highly polished granite and designed for use with or without water, will frame and reflect the city-facing neo-classical façade of the Art Gallery. The forecourt's original low stone heritage walls will be reconstructed and raised to provide extra seating. 

Kathryn Gustafson and GGN are leading the design of these key landscape features working together with Australian landscape architects McGregor Coxall. Gustafson and GGN were announced as part of the Sydney Modern Project's global team in 2020, joining SANAA, executive architects Architectus and McGregor Coxall.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said the design enhances the architectural heritage of the much-loved gallery building to create a new and more welcoming visitor experience.  

“The Art Gallery’s expanded and transformed campus will provide an exceptional experience of art, architecture and landscape for everyone to enjoy in one of the world’s most beautiful urban locations.  

“Kathryn Gustafson's design for our new civic forecourt will provide visitors to the Art Gallery more space to gather and better connects our magnificent site on Gadigal Country to The Domain, the Royal Botanic Garden and the city. As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we look forward to the next 150 years and are pleased to be creating a new home for art that is responsive to this era and generations to come,” Brand said.  

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the Art Gallery of NSW's expansion sends a strong signal of confidence and hope for the future.

“The transformation that is taking place at the Art Gallery of NSW is extraordinary. We are investing in our future by creating a world-class destination for art and culture in Australia's global city.

“I'm delighted that construction on the Sydney Modern Project remains on track for completion in 2022, despite the pandemic,” Mr Harwin said.

Approved in 2018 as part of the project’s State Significant Development Application, more than 850sqm of additional public space will be created in the forecourt by the removal of car parking at the front of the existing building. A new design for the Domain pedestrian crossing will provide level access from the parkland to the Art Gallery.  

The Sydney Modern Project landscape design will create a unified art museum campus, unfolding as a sequence of experiences across open spaces and gardens that are free and accessible to all, 24 hours a day. It will also increase biodiversity with 70% more trees on site that will also feature endemic planting that gives Sydney Harbour its rich character. 

“Public open space is more important than ever as we seek out places of peace, reflection and to celebrate the joy of life,” Kathryn Gustafson said. 

“Our goal with the Sydney Modern Project is to create a flexible and welcoming place for all visitors, where they can connect with the natural and cultural environment in this stunning location.” 

The Art Gallery is delighted to be working closely with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust on the project. 

The wider precinct including The Domain and the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney welcomes millions of people each year, and the Sydney Modern Project provides a unique opportunity to enhance the landscape, visitor amenity and access to these much-loved public spaces.

The Sydney Modern Project is funded through a $344 million public and philanthropic partnership – the largest of its kind to date in the arts in Australia. Together with the NSW Government’s funding of $244 million, the Gallery has raised more than $100 million from private donors to support the project. 

Richard Crookes Constructions is due to commence site preparation works outside the Art Gallery this month, in line with NSW Government COVID guidelines. The Gallery’s main entrance on Art Gallery Road will continue to be accessible throughout the works. The Sydney Modern Project’s construction program is scheduled for completion in late 2022.

About the Sydney Modern Project

The Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Sydney Modern Project is an important expansion and transformation of one of Australia’s pre-eminent art museums: a new standalone gallery building, the revitalisation of its late-19th-century building, art garden and civic space for all. Construction of the Art Gallery’s new building designed by Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA, with Architectus as executive architect, is underway by Richard Crookes  Constructions and is scheduled for completion in late 2022. The Art Gallery is the first art museum in Australia to be awarded the highest environmental standard for design with a 6-star Green Star rating.  Infrastructure NSW is the delivery agency for the project on behalf of the NSW Government and the Art Gallery, which remains open during construction.  

About Kathryn Gustafson and GGN 

Kathryn Gustafson is a globally renowned landscape architect with 35 years of distinguished practice. Among her many accolades, Kathryn was recognised with the 2019 Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, the highest honour bestowed by the International Federation of Landscape Architecture. Kathryn is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architecture, an honorary Royal Designer for Industry member and a medallist of the French Academy of Architecture. Kathryn was a member of the Sydney Modern Project international architecture competition jury, which in 2015 unanimously selected SANAA as the preferred architect for the project. 

Kathryn helped found two landscape architecture firms, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) in Seattle, USA in 1999 with Jennifer Guthrie and Shannon Nichol – and Gustafson Porter + Bowman in London. Her work with GGN includes the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. In 2011, Kathryn and GGN received the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Architecture, and GGN received the 2017 ASLA National Landscape Architecture Firm Award. 

Kathryn’s work with Gustafson Porter + Bowman includes the Site Tour Eiffel in Paris, Valencia’s Parque Central in Spain, Westergasfabriek Culture Park in Amsterdam and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde Park.