While the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) says it has welcomed the NSW government’s announcement of support for retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo while maintaining a commitment to build a world-class cultural institution at Parramatta, it also says both Sydney and Parramatta both need their own respective Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) facilities.
“Western Sydney’s growing population already exceeding two million, the case for a new MAAS facility in Parramatta is overwhelming and the Institute continues to support its development, says the AIA, adding, “But to downgrade the Ultimo Powerhouse is to short-change Sydney.”
“Regardless of who is in government after the upcoming election, we would like to see a MAAS Parramatta facility go ahead, beginning with an exemplary design excellence competition and resulting in a built outcome that delivers ongoing value and benefit for the community and for Western Sydney’s architectural culture,” says NSW chapter president Andrew Nimmo.
“But the facility should complement the Ultimo Powerhouse, not replace it,” he says.
“The Powerhouse building’s form, its history and its siting within this publicly valuable precinct is integral to the social, cultural, technological and economic story of Sydney.”
The AIA also notes there is also the issue of the Ultimo Powerhouse’s high architectural value, “which should be celebrated and retained.”
According to the AIA, the adaptive reuse of the building in 1988 won the Sulman Medal, and has earned listing on the Institute's own Register of Significant Buildings.
“To this end,” it says, “the Institute recommends the government grant the Powerhouse Museum the heritage listing and protections that it deserves as a matter of priority.”
“We need to ensure the integrity of the building itself is maintained in any adaption or upgrade works,’ says Nimmo.