Pritzker laureates and gold medallists compete to design Adelaide contemporary art gallery

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South Australian Museum (left) and Art Gallery of South Australia (right) along the revitalized North Terrace by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design.

South Australian Museum (left) and Art Gallery of South Australia (right) along the revitalized North Terrace by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design. Image: John Gollings

UK-based architectural competition organizer Malcolm Reading Consultants has revealed that 107 teams made up of 525 individual firms from five continents have registered their interest in designing a new contemporary art gallery in Adelaide.

The South Australian government launched two-stage international design competition for a 15,000-square-metre gallery in October. Known as Adelaide Contemporary, the proposed gallery will occupy a site at the eastern end of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital on North Terrace, adjacent to the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The project will also comprise a public sculpture park and meeting place.

“The quality of teams, of talent, is exceptionally high and includes Pritzker laureates – architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize – as well as Australian Institute of Architects’ Gold Medallists. But ultimately teams will be selected on the quality of their submission, their intellectual and aesthetic connection to the project,” said competition director Malcolm Reading.

More than one-third of the practices registered are Australian. More than one fifth of the remaining registrants hail from North America; under a quarter from Europe; one tenth from Asia (with many in Japan) and less than a tenth from the United Kingdom.

The competition jury will select up to six teams to proceed to the second stage, which will involve the preparation of concept designs. A $90,000 honorarium will be paid to each stage twoshortlisted team. In stage two, international practices will be required to partner with an Australian practice.

“It is heartening to see Australian architects embracing the two stage competition process – this is widely welcomed by the architecture profession in Europe and North America and compliant with international procurement standards – but it is less familiar in Australia,” Reading said. 

“An open process, which treats all competitors equally and avoids the waste of a one stage design contest, the two-stage approach also meets South Australian major projects procurement requirements.”

However, the Australian Institute of Architects has not endorsed the competition. Speaking to Adelaide’s independent news outlet Indaily, the Institute’s South Australian chapter manager Nicolette Di Lernia said the government appeared to be “looking for a big name architect” and that the process precluded submissions from being judged on merit alone.

Institute CEO Jennifer Cunich provided the following statement to ArchitectureAU:

The Institute maintains a comprehensive and publicly available national policy on architectural competitions, which provides clear guidance on when endorsement can be granted. 

In the case of the Adelaide Contemporary International Design Competition, competition organizers Malcolm Reading Consultants submitted the competition conditions to the Australian Institute of Architects for review and had requested formal endorsement under the Institute’s Architectural Competition Policy (the Policy).

At the launch of the competition, the competition conditions did not at that time comply with the Policy and endorsement could not be granted. This was primarily because stage one entries were not to be kept anonymous.

Stage two could potentially meet the Institute’s policy for a “select” competition, subject to certain conditions to reassure the Institute and its members that stage two meets the intent and minimum conditions of the policy. Malcolm Reading Consultants are continuing to work with the Institute and Arts South Australia to determine whether the current competition conditions can be revised to achieve endorsement. 

The Institute has not been critical of the competition in correspondence with our members, we have however provided confirmation to them of the above-stated facts.

The Institute believes that the Adelaide Contemporary project is an important opportunity for South Australia and commends Arts South Australia, the [Art Gallery of South Australia Gallery] and Malcolm Reading Consultants for the comprehensive and highly informative briefing material that has been provided in the competition documentation.  The SA Chapter of the Institute advocates that significant value results from meaningful engagement of locally based architects and other consultants within the project team and notes that shortlisted registrants will need to respond to the South Australian Industry Participation Policy, which supports procurement that provides economic benefit to South Australia.

The competition jury will be chaired by Michael Lynch, former chief executive of the Sydney Opera House, London’s Southbank Centre and Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The full jury is yet to be announced.

The shortlist will be announced in mid-December and a public exhibition of shortlisted schemes will be exhibited in Adelaide ahead of jury deliberations in May 2018. The winner will be announced in June 2018.

The competition will inform the project’s final business case and funding approval.

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