Construction has begun on a unique storage facility in Sydney that promises to provide a different way to store, view and experience art.

Designed by Tzannes architects, the new 10,000sqm Dangrove storage facility in Alexandria will store art collector Judith Neilson’s globally significant collection in a way intended to challenge the status quo of storage warehouses.

From the outside, the building form will be a contemporary warehouse typology designed to blend with the warehouses around it. The concrete framed linear volume will float above the working ground level, which has a defined datum of steel blades. These blades also form the security fence and frame the pedestrian entries and vehicle access and loading.

The building structure has been simply designed to allow for adaptive reuse should a new use be required

Inside, the building’s design intention becomes more obvious. Its form is deliberately guided to address both its purpose as a secure storage and curatorial facility as well as its role to enhance the experience of the collection. The scale and proportion of the rooms, and the access and play on light, vary as the spaces begin to reveal themselves and interact.

Thermal mass is used in the construction of the building to optimise climate control and reduce mechanical loads

The Great Hall for Art evaluation is 20 x 90m long, the roof steps from approx. 8m - 30m

Polycarbonate double wall system to the Great Hall brings in natural light and reduced UV by 99 per cent

Ultimately, the visitor experience is centred on the Great Hall, a 20 x 90m long grand space with a sloping roof that steps from approx. 8m - 30m. A polycarbonate double wall system to the Great Hall will allow for natural light into the working Art Evaluation Space – where art will be temporarily displayed, evaluated and curated - whilst achieving 99 per cent UV reduction.

The large sloping roof provides flexibility for various scales of art to be displayed. The stepped ceiling breaks up the monolithic pitch of the roof and provides different bays of varying scale to define spaces within the larger experience of the Great Hall.

The project brief required storage facilities that not only met museum standards, but also the lowest net energy use and carbon footprint. Tzannes added 600 PV cells to the roof to supplement power to the facility and water collection tanks for reuse on site to mechanical equipment, landscape irrigation, facility maintenance and cleaning.

The result, says the architects, sets a new benchmark for art storage and curation internationally: “a building of unexpected delight, offering a new way to interact with art”.

“Our client, a major international collector, has a sophisticated understanding of both contemporary art and architecture,” says Alec Tzannes, Tzannes director.

“The brief was ambitious: we were asked to design a state of the art working building with a 100 year life, that would store the client’s growing collection for a minimum of fifty years, and at the same time, an exceptional experience of viewing and interacting with art for both staff and visitors.

“What we have done here is bring the potential of art and architecture together, in a new form. Our aim was to reinterpret what a functional art storage facility does, creating a new typology that would also serve other collection-related purposes.”

In 2015, Judith Neilson moved into her new Chippendale home designed by Smart Design Studio. It’s named Indigo Slam and was the winner of the Wilkinson Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New) at the 2016 NSW Architecture Awards.

Images: Tzannes