The ‘Annexe’ addition to the Art Gallery of Ballarat provides new function spaces, creates a new frontage, reconnects the facility with its historic setting and does it all by adding what is essentially a single room. BPN takes a detailed look at the paints, stains and coatings.

Completed in 2011 for the City of Ballarat, with a footprint of 131sqm (187sqm covered area), this relatively small addition makes a considerable visual and functional difference. That would explain why it has earned awards in 2012 for its use of colour and timber and steel from the Australian Interior Design Awards, Dulux Colour Awards, Intergrain Timber Vision Awards and Australian Institute of Architects.

The $550,000 project creates an enclosed multi-purpose space for lectures, workshops, art installations, community functions and opening nights.

It is also designed to facilitate private functions with the ability to operate independently from other gallery spaces. Operable glazed panels open the facade for summer openings and transform the project into a bandstand for public performances toward the adjacent plaza.

Powder-coated steel, painted timber, butynol membrane and bluestone paving were chosen for durability and ease of maintenance. All steelwork comes in Dulux Powder Coating - Duralloy - Black Matt – 19319. Photographer: John Gollings


Founded in 1884, it is the oldest regional art gallery in Australia. The addition re-engages the building with the views of what was the 1850s Ballarat goldfields, presenting a sight-line across Camp Street, the historic site which was once a tent city after the discovery of gold. It looks over where government troopers established a camp on top of the escarpment to keep surveillance over the goldfields and miner’s below. It was from this location that the troopers rode out to quash the Eureka Rebellion of 1854.

South Elevation - Curtains drawn across the closed south facade. Ardex Butynol Roofing Membrane is colour matched with the steel framed windows and structural steelwork, both Dulux Powder Coated - Duralloy - Black Matt – 19319.


All the interior timber linings are painted to specification with Dulux Wash & Wear - Low Sheen - Lexicon Quarter – PCWF4.

The ceiling, soffit and feature wall of the new space are clad with slender, white-painted timber battens of varying intensity. The singular, timber surface was used to define the enclosure of the space, enabling flexible use and visually connecting the inside and outside.

The modulated roofscape and painted-timber linings were designed to hark back to the roof forms of Ballarat’s 19th century back-of-house spaces where humble, timber lined, saw-toothed additions stand in contrast to the grand facades of the main streets.

The designers, Nick Searle and Suzannah Waldron, say the interiors are purposefully sculptural, casting the volume upward into four peaks above the plinth. Skylights combine perpendicular and inclined edges at varying orientation and scale, channelling in diffused natural light. A striated pattern of timber boards shifts from solid to open at the extreme awning edges. This ceiling surface extends across the vertical face of the storage wall, accommodating operable glazed panels and services. An opening in the wall aligns with the skylights and frames a long bench seat, revealing the historic brickwork of the main gallery.

Acoustics are tailored predominantly for speech. Varied gaps between timber boards modulate sound with acoustic insulation behind. 

Lighting is integrated into the linear ceiling design with fluorescent slot lights and exhibition lighting tracks recessed.


The envelope employs perimeter seals, shade screens, double glazing, a passively ventilated roof cavity, as well as energy efficient lighting, programmatic versatility and the potential to naturally ventilate seasonal functions.

The exterior timber awning is painted in Dulux Weathershield – Semi Gloss - Lexicon Quarter – PCWF4. Victoria’s 2012 Institute of Architects awards jury praises the use of the blackened steel “steeped in the crafts of metallurgy and mining” to achieve its sense of space.

The facade opens for outdoor public events, de-materialising the glazed perimeter reorientates the interior to the urban context, with the outer corner cantilevering from two circular columns. Triangular awnings signal the new insertion from the distant end of Police Lane and form interstitial verandahs; stepped seating forms a stage and allows casual occupation of the plaza.

Commenting on the colour palette, Waldron says, “Connecting inside and out, the Annexe extends the white walls of the gallery into the plaza, where Inge King’s ‘Grand Arch’ sculpture provides the cue for the use of black steel.”

The Annexe is designed to be structurally independent of the existing heritage listed gallery and rest on the concrete retaining wall of the existing archival space immediately below.  Steel was chosen for its lightweight versatility, rapid assembly and ability to be accurately tailored to the existing conditions.  Two visible circular columns do the bulk of the lifting, supporting a cluster of beams at these two points, bearing the roof and awning.


  • Double Glazing: Viridian
  • Roofing membrane:  Ardex Butynol
  • Steel fabrication: Ice Engineering
  • Steel operable glazing panels / windows: Steel Design
  • Operable Door Track: Brio
  • Aluminium skylight frames: Capral
  • Curtain fabrication: D&C Design
  • Timber linings: FSC approved - Alpine Ash and Pinus radiata
  • Acoustic lining:  Regina Glass Fibre
  • Stone flooring / steps: Victorian Bluestone (Basalt)
  • Fluorescent light fittings: Sylvania Slimdim batten 3000k
  • LED lighting: Osram linearlight flex 3000k

Project credits

  • Project Team: Nick Searle, Suzannah Waldron
  • Builder: Nicholson Construction
  • Structural engineers: TGM Group
  • Services consultant: Cosgriff & Associates
  • Lighting consultant: Bluebottle 3
  • Acoustic consultant: Acoustic Consulting Australia
  • Cost Consultant: DDH Quantity Surveyors
  • Photographer: John Gollings
  • Searle x Waldron Architecture