Glazing products from Viridian New World Glass were extensively used in the design of Sydney’s new Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

Featuring a sweeping forecourt, glass-walled entry, checkerboard blocks and exuberant glazing, architect Sam Marshall’s $53 million design strikes a clever balance of restraint with a bold presence.

Viridian’s involvement throughout the four-year project resulted in the targeted use of high performance glass across the structure to create a generous and free-flowing experience for the visitors.

Peter Hyatt spoke with project architect Sam Marshall about the challenges of creating a standout gallery against an imposing backdrop of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Mr Marshall worked very closely from the outset with the MCA Director Liz Ann McGregor to understand specific expectations and develop the design brief.

The original structure was an administrative office building completed in 1952, and made from beautiful sandstone on a granite base. The brief required the old building to be retained in the new design.

The new vertical circulation does not cut through the galleries, but instead allows a choice to enter or loop either the galleries or education spaces. It all opens up through the gaps between the rooms with views to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and the immediate Rocks area, especially where the learning and children spaces are featured on the northern elevation.

It was really important to make the educational spaces work well by giving prominence and engaging the users with the views.

Glass has been used by the architect to frame some wonderful vistas in the education areas. Instead of using complete walls of glass, which would have imposed a big thermal load, the design uses the picture frame method to show the beautiful views, similar to an artwork on the wall.

Glass is the linking, informing element for the interior and exterior of the new building design. According to Sam Marshall, glass allows one to look into the building from outside and observe its activities or seamlessly see the surrounds from within. Being transparent, glass doesn’t restrict the spatial flow but is able to block out the noisy quay and slows down thermal transfer.

Sam Marshall considers glass as a friendly element of design, with the temptation to use it everywhere, and having to balance between solid walls and complying with Section J.

The design required large and transparent pieces of glass, which Viridian was able to supply while also meeting Section J compliance requirements. The MCA features a range of Viridian glass types in response to the view, orientation and environment.

According to Anthony Gunther – Commercial Channel Manager, Viridian, their involvement from the early stages of the project helped them identify some of the major hurdles and flag the critical areas upfront.

The Viridian team was very conscious of identifying the architectural intent to keep the glass as transparent as possible for the engagement with and into the building. The orientation of the large facades angled almost due east, meant delivery of a clear glass option around very high performance requirements.

Viridian EnviroShield Performance – XIR EnergyTech glass achieved the architectural intent and the performance criteria. The XIR encapsulated interlayer offers exceptional solar control properties by reflecting solar heat gain and giving the performance of the higher end heavily toned or reflective glasses to a neutral option without sacrificing natural daylight.

Viridian’s range of glass types satisfies the transparency, visible light transparency and thermal performance requirements of the design. Glass has also been used as a structural element with some of the glass types including 31mm thick performance glass.

Viridian glazing products installed at the MCA

External glazing:

  • Viridian EnviroShield Performance ITO Neutral
  • Viridian EnviroShield Performance XIR Clear
  • Viridian EnviroShield Performance XIR EnergyTech
  • Viridian EnviroShield Performance XIR Sunergy
  • Viridian ThermoTech Low E EnviroShield TS30 on Clear
  • Viridian Seraphic Standard - Black on SuperClear
Internal glazing:

  • Viridian VFloat Clear
  • Viridian VTough Clear