Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information

Stage 2: Competition jury findings

From the Sydney Modern Project Competition Jury Selection Report

Evaluation criteria

In determining its conclusions and recommendations, the jury noted all five shortlisted competitors demonstrated innovative responses to the complex site. The jury noted the quantum of work each shortlisted competitor undertook in the development of the design concept and the high quality of the formal presentations. The jury agreed that all five design concepts demonstrated good potential and displayed innovative thinking across a range of areas including relationship to the existing building and connection to the city, Sydney Harbour and urban precinct and all displayed potential to meet the purpose and aims of the Competition Design Brief (CDB).

The jury assessed each Stage 2 submission against the following evaluation criteria included in the Stage 2 CDB (not listed in order of any priority):

  • conceptual architectural response to the Gallery’s vision and design brief
  • creative response to place, landscape and the cultural significance of the site
  • innovative response to all aspects of sustainability
  • broad functional and operational considerations of the Gallery’s vision
  • response to the planning framework and heritage considerations
  • cost and ‘buildability’
  • engagement with the Gallery to develop and deliver the project
  • resourcing the project
  • proposed personnel and expertise
  • understanding of the design brief and required deliverables for the initial engagement and subsequent project phases
  • program and delivery timeframe
  • fee budget that appropriately reflects the project scope, budget and complexity

The jury considered SANAA best met the above criteria.

The jury considered comments for each design concept. At the conclusion of the competition process and utilising the jury’s commentary the Sydney Modern Secretariat compiled a draft citation for each of the shortlisted schemes. The Jury Chair circulated the citations to each jury member for comment. Following feedback the citations were finalised.

Assessment overview of shortlisted submissions (listed alphabetically)

Kengo Kuma and Associates

The scheme opens up the competition site by presenting a small built footprint and minimal physical contact between the new and existing buildings. The location of the internal interface between the buildings is innovative and results in clear circulation paths both vertically and horizontally.

The concept provides landscape continuity and view permeability while maximising floor space by elevating exhibition galleries above the Cultural Plaza.

The large space between the new and existing buildings offers expanded opportunities for outdoor activities. The bold elevated northern façade would provide extraordinary views over Sydney Harbour.

The integration of landscape shows sensitivity and an understanding of local native Sydney sandstone and flora. This includes a link between architecture and nature through the materiality of the building facade inspired by the texture of the paperbark tree.

The new entrance to the Gallery is clearly defined within the Cultural Plaza and creates a place of welcome for visitors. The scheme offers well considered internal spaces with a diverse range of art display spaces that are spatially interesting and inviting to the visitor. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander galleries are well located at the commencement of the visitor’s journey through the museum with the space defined by a vaulted ceiling in a continuum from the Cultural Plaza.

We aim at blending of architecture and ‘locus’ where you find a rich and firm link between the building and the ‘place’ it stands. To achieve this goal, we use natural materials that are locally available in each ‘place’, such as stone or wood, and try to retrieve warmth and tenderness to the architecture.

Kengo Kuma and Associates

Kerry Hill Architects

The scheme creates a ‘new terrain’ which engages with its urban and landscape context on all sides. The link with the Woolloomooloo Gate entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens is strong, as is the location of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander galleries at this point.

The scheme delivers a well-rounded response to the brief and the complexities of the site and creates a single integrated art museum. The response is inspired by what the architects describe as the ‘layered geometrics’ found in the strata of the site. The scheme has a generous range of outdoor spaces that accommodate a variety of uses and are well integrated with indoor spaces.

The use of water, landscaped spaces and opportunities for engagement with multiple art forms and major events creates a welcoming arrival point. The visitor journey through the urban link from Woolloomooloo to the city provides opportunities for engagement with art with exciting views into the building.

The material palette the architects express for the new building explores the use of new building materials and indicates an innovative response that would help achieve a reduction in the Gallery’s carbon footprint. The planting of Angophora Costata trees by the Art Gallery Road façade adds a strong sense of local landscape to the scheme.

The concept for Sydney Modern is motivated by the idea of engagement – a building that engages in multiple ways with its physical and cultural context to create a stage for diverse encounters with art.

Kerry Hill Architects

Rahul Mehrotra Architects

The scheme is conceived to take advantage of the natural landform of the site by embedding the new building in the landscape. This formal modesty allows the design concept to articulate a striking relationship between the existing and new buildings with most of the new spaces placed underground.

The scheme is porous and facilitates movement from the Royal Botanic Gardens and The Domain through the Gallery with a strong series of stepped terraces and ramps that reach down the site into Woolloomooloo.

The central concept of a ‘void’ connecting to both sky and earth is a powerful idea and the suggested creative programming would offer interesting ways of interpreting an art museum and its collection. Spaces created through the setting of a circular void in a rectilinear plan would provide unique spaces for curatorial creativity within the art museum context. The galleries for both contemporary art and temporary exhibitions are beautifully articulated spaces.

Through its deep commitment to the site and its potential for innovative programming the rigorously argued scheme presents a number of interesting ideas that address the concept of a 21st-century art museum.

The building is an armature for Art.

A Gallery should not be a singular image and overpower the artefacts; rather the site allows a plural dispensation of architectural strategies and form (or non-form, or earth-building).

Rahul Mehrotra Architects


The scheme responds to the beauty of the competition site through a series of pavilions that reach out to the Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens as they cascade down to Sydney Harbour and Woolloomooloo. The low profile of the pavilions complements and preserves both the integrity and importance of the existing Gallery building and creates spaces to bring people together and foster a sense of community, imagination and openness.

Its lightness of form speaks to the new century while respecting the architecture of the previous centuries to create a harmonious and inspiring new public space for Sydney. The scheme is futurist in its thinking about art museums and the visitor experience, and will be transformative for the Gallery. The scheme elegantly places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at its heart.

This is a 21st-century concept that has the full potential when developed to be an environmentally sensitive art museum. The scheme starts to deconstruct the classical art museum and offers opportunity for further development of new types of spaces for the display of a variety of art forms, both existing and new.

The design offers what the architects describe as ‘a clean palette’ for displaying art and staging cultural events. The scheme will invite artists to experiment and provide a curatorial challenge for the Gallery which would be profoundly invigorating for an institution transforming itself into a 21st-century art museum.

The concept for the site is transition. The transition from man-made Botanic Gardens and Domain to the wild and natural sandstone escarpment of Woolloomooloo Bay… The new wing of the Gallery sits lightly on the land to preserve the landscape and special atmosphere of the existing place. The new building is a low calm building that steps and shifts gently along the natural contours to form a plaza between the existing and new galleries.


Sean Godsell Architects

The scheme presents a boldly geometric concept that demonstrates potential to deliver an exciting new building for Sydney that aspires to the notion of a participatory museum.

The incorporation of water in the Cultural Plaza is well conceived and allows the existing entrance to be transformed to a bridged entrance for special occasions or to be blocked off in an intriguing manner. The design concept is innovative and includes a two-storey glass and steel building set atop the land bridge along with a number of other pavilions under a huge rectangular ‘bio skin.’ A further four levels of new space—both front and back of house—are located on the north side of the expressway and connect to Woolloomooloo. The design footprint of the new building occupies a significant proportion of the site but does include shaded outdoor spaces under the ‘bio skin’.

A key part the concept, the ‘bio skin’ would utilise sun and rain to maximise the building’s environmental performance. Further information on the technical detail of this element would be required as to the possibility of the intended outcomes being achievable. The scheme creates additional spaces to those included in the design brief. The vertical ‘needle’ as an orienting component of the design is an exciting one that would increase the visibility of the institution within the city of Sydney.

Our concept for Sydney Modern at the AGNSW is to make a timeless environment for contemporary art that creates a uniquely Australian sense of place in a landscape that supports all forms of art and that encourages the easy congregation and flow of visitors – one museum that can speak to the world with a discernibly Australian accent as it addresses the issues of 21st century museum design.

Sean Godsell Architects


The competition jury resolved unanimously that SANAA be recommended to the Sydney Modern Strategy Committee as the preferred architect for the Sydney Modern Project competition.