The team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (US) with Woods Bagot (Australia) has won the Adelaide Contemporary International Design Competition.
The winning team’s concept design reconciled the brief for a dynamic people-friendly new place with a skilfully-organised gallery, while also incorporating a performance lab, a dramatic ‘Super Lobby’, floating top-floor sky galleries and a suspended rooftop garden. The garden, inspired by ‘Minkunthi’, the Kaurna word ‘to relax’, would display the planting of a pre-colonised South Australian landscape, linking the idea of the contemporary to Kaurna ecological and cultural history.
The building was described by the team in their presentation as a charismatic soft beacon on North Terrace that would reflect the sky by day and, at night, glow with galleries – allowing visitors to glimpse the art collection as they passed the building outside formal opening hours and, in this sense, ‘giving the art back to the city’.
The international jury found the concept design to be resonant to Adelaide and its famous festival culture, promising to create spectacle and attract new audiences with dynamic, multipurpose spaces while also displaying a sound understanding of current art practice and offering a flexible but distinctive gallery configuration on a nine-square model.
“The design foregrounds South Australia’s exceptional collections and capitalises on the momentum of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s recent successes in celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture,” says Michael Lynch AO CBE, chair of the jury and the Art Gallery of South Australia Board’s special advisor.
“It was an inspired insight by the winning team to conceive the building stepping down along the topography of the site and so creating a genuine connection to site and Country, respectful to the Kaurna people as well as integrating the Botanic Garden into the design.”
“The competition centred on healing Adelaide’s civic realm: the former hospital created a physical disconnect between the cultural boulevard and the Botanic Gardens – what better way to connect the two than by using art?” asks competition director Malcolm Reading.
“The winning scheme is tightly-engineered, works the site hard, but is also a lot of fun. It has the potential to speak to new generations who are developing their own cultural identity, and offer a new focus for the city, much needed as Adelaide continues to grow and flourish.”