Internationally renowned landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson will be designing feature landscape elements including a new public art garden for the Art Gallery of NSW expansion project.

Kathryn Gustafson and Seattle firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) will be working with the Sydney Modern Project architect, SANAA, and landscape architect, McGregor Coxall on the expansion project known as the Sydney Modern Project, which aims to double the existing exhibition space and create seamless connections between indoor and outdoor spaces. 

The new building is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/ SANAA, with Architectus serving  as executive architect.

Maintaining the highest standards of landscape architecture and design,  Gustafson and GGN will design  the new public art garden, and work on the revitalisation of the grand forecourt of the existing building. The brief for the landscape design aims to create a unified campus that connects the existing and new museum buildings, with the Gallery’s unique parkland setting providing opportunities for new visitor experiences, as well as the potential to become one of Australia’s most significant public spaces. 

The public art garden will provide a verdant connection between the Gallery’s existing and new buildings; improved 24/7 universal pedestrian access between Woolloomooloo, The Domain and the city beyond through the centre of the expanded campus; enhanced sightlines to the surrounding parkland, the city and the harbour; variegated plantings to provide an inspired landscape presence at the heart of the campus; a gently sloping circular space at its centre for rest, relaxation and play; a landscaped ‘rain catcher’ that collects rainwater from the wave-form glass canopy over the Entry Plaza for water harvesting as part of the 6-star Green Star sustainability rating; and multiple spaces for art experiences, art-related programming and other events.

The landscape design will increase the biodiversity of the site and include endemic planting to introduce historic Australian native species more in keeping with the original flora of the site.  On completion in 2022, there will be 381 trees across the campus – an increase of more than 70% on current numbers – helping meet the biodiversity goals.

Gustafson has previously worked on a series of high-profile international projects including the 100-hectare Eiffel Tower Park currently underway in Paris, the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington DC completed in 2016, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde Park, completed in 2004. 

“Kathryn is driven by a desire to enhance the human experience of landscape. As a member of the Sydney Modern Jury, which in 2015 unanimously selected SANAA as the preferred architect for the project, she has a deep understanding of SANAA’s design philosophies, which will ensure seamless indoor and outdoor art encounters for visitors,” Gallery director Michael Brand said. 

“We’re privileged to have such a renowned landscape architecture team working on our Gallery expansion that will bring together art, architecture and landscape in a spectacular way and where visitors to the Gallery, The Domain and adjacent Royal Botanic Garden will enjoy new art experiences unique to Sydney,” he added. 

Gustafson said, “It’s an honour to work on the Sydney Modern Project – the expansion of one of Australia’s and Sydney’s most prominent art destinations.  

“Public open spaces are, by definition inclusive and diverse and it’s exciting to create welcoming and unique experiences for all visitors to connect with the environment both natural and cultural.” 

The Sydney Modern Project also includes the revitalisation of the existing Gallery building, which dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, with an aim to restore and enhance the iconic building’s original architectural fabric.   

“This includes revitalising the original grand forecourt in front of the city-facing facade and adding two reflecting pools, designed by Kathryn, creating a new visitor welcome through this magnificent civic space that will also be better connected to pathways across Art Gallery Road and through The Domain to the city,” Brand said. 

“We welcome Kathryn Gustafson and GGN to our architecture and design team joining SANAA, Architectus and McGregor Coxall as we create an exciting new art museum experience for Australia’s global city.”