Japanese architectural practice Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA has won the international competition to design the Sydney Modern Project.

They will work with the Art Gallery of New South Wales to design what is intended to be a new landmark building.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Dr Michael Brand said the international jury unanimously selected SANAA, an architectural firm based in Tokyo, Japan, founded twenty years ago by internationally renowned and highly respected architects – Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. SANAA’s body of work includes art museums in Japan, France and the United States.

An aerial of the proposed project

In 2010 Sejima and Nishizawa were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s highest honour. Of Sejima and Nishizawa the Pritzker Prize jury said: “The architects hold a vision of a building as a seamless whole, where the physical presence retreats and forms a sensuous background for people, objects, activities and landscapes.”

 Left to right: Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima

Dr Brand said SANAA has vision, expertise and a passion for art and architecture and that the Gallery was looking forward to working collaboratively with SANAA to deliver an exceptional design for the Gallery’s ambitious and transformative project.

“The SANAA concept is at once subtle and spectacular in its design. It responds to and respects the extraordinary beauty of the competition site through a series of pavilions that reach out to the Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour and Woolloomooloo.

“The subtle profile of the pavilions complements and preserves the history of the existing Gallery building creating spaces that bring people together and foster a sense of community, imagination and openness,” Dr Brand said.

“Sydney is a global destination and art museums play a key role in attracting and inspiring both local and international audiences. The concept is futurist in its thinking about art museums and the visitor experience and will be transformative for the Gallery and for Sydney,” Dr Brand added.

SANAA sets up in Sydney

Tokyo-based SANAA is in the process of establishing a presence in Sydney in partnership with a local architectural firm which will provide strong opportunities for engagement with the New South Wales architectural community.

Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant said: “The NSW Government has provided $10.8 million announced in the 2014/15 State Budget to allow the Art Gallery of NSW to advance their plans for a major transformation of one of the State’s leading cultural Institutions.”

SANAA co-founder Kazuyo Sejima, one of the most highly respected female architects in the world said: “We are very excited to be a part of this important step in the transformation of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I am very much looking forward to learning more about the history, the collection, and diverse environment to develop the design into one that is fitting to this beautiful landscape.”

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa by SANAA. Image: Kanazawa

President of the Gallery’s Board of Trustees, Mr Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, welcomed the jury’s choice and thanked jury members for their dedication and commitment in making their selection.

“The Board of Trustees is thrilled by the jury’s decision. SANAA’s body of work includes the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Musee du Louvre-Lens in northern France. These are exceptional buildings and we’re looking forward to building a collaborative working relationship with SANAA.

“SANAA’s is a visionary concept that will enable the Gallery to present a comprehensive display of Australian and international art and attract the best national and international exhibitions to Sydney,” Mr Belgiorno-Nettis said.

“The complex of pavilion-like units does not dominate the site, or attempt to project its own overwhelming architectural image. It creates a respectful, refined and balanced dialogue with the existing Gallery building as well as the larger park setting. The various urban and landscape

Internationally acclaimed architect and jury member Juhani Pallasmaa said the Sydney Modern Project jury was deeply impressed with the scheme submitted by SANAA.

components of the site – the Domain, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the escarpment towards the Woolloomooloo Bay – are united into a relaxed and well-functioning entity with a natural flow of movement and views. The overall atmosphere of the project with its setting is unconstrained, cultured and stimulating.”

Interior concept imagery for the Sydney Modern Project. Images courtesy the Gallery website, which you can visit for more information.

Artist and former Gallery Trustee, Lindy Lee said, “The new museum concept is magical. It is light, expansive and it breathes. It invites an audience to come through and not only look at art, but also its context and location.”

Dr Brand also thanked the four other shortlisted architects for their participation in the competition saying the jury was impressed by the exceptional calibre of their submissions and the potential for inspiration expressed by the concepts put forward by them.

“Each of the architect’s submissions showed an extraordinary depth of thinking in response to our brief and I thank them all for their important involvement in this competition,” Dr Brand said.

The Art Gallery of NSW will work closely with SANAA in the next twelve months to develop a final concept in consultation with staff and key stakeholders and will seek the views of the wider community as part of this process.