Diller Scofidio and Renfro and Woods Bagot have won the Adelaide Contemporary International Design Competition with a proposal described as “a lot of fun” with a “flair for placemaking.”
The proposed Adelaide Contemporary would be located on the site of the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital (ORAH) on North Terrace, adjacent to the Adelaide Botanic Garden.
The winning team impressed the nine-member jury with a proposal that included a dramatic “super lobby,” floating “sky galleries,” suspended rooftop garden and a performance lab.
“The winning team’s concept design responds to this once-in-a-generation opportunity for a landmark building in the heart of the city, positioned on the edge of the Botanic Garden,” said jury chair Michael Lynch. “In a city famous for its festivals, the design creates a new place that embraces art in all of its forms and appeals to a broad audience, both local and international.”
Diller Scofidio and Renfro and Woods Bagot proposed “a matrix of spaces unbound by disciplinary categories.”
“This project needs to anticipate the unanticipatable,” said Charles Renfro. “Being located right on the edge of the between the city and the Botanic Garden is such a wonderful opportunity to make a building that is porous, open and welcoming.”
The building would be divided vertically into three parts: galleries with controlled lighting underground, day-lit upper galleries and a “super lobby” at ground level that will connect the city and the garden.
The glass-fronted gallery would reflect the sky by day and glow from within by night, allowing passers-by to see into the space, getting a glimpse of its collections and thereby “giving the art back to the city,” the design team said.
The jury found the winning scheme resonated with Adelaide and its festival culture and had the potential to create spectacle.
“The design foregrounds South Australia’s exceptional collections and capitalizes on the momentum of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s recent successes in celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture,” Lynch said.
“The jury was impressed by the winning team’s assured understanding of the future of art, performance and 21st-century programming, as well as its flair for placemaking.
“It was an inspired insight by the winning team to conceive the building stepping down along the topography of the site and so creating a genuine connection to site and Country, respectful to the Kaurna people as well as integrating the Botanic Garden into the design.”
Competition director Malcolm Reading said, “The winning scheme is tightly-engineered, works the site hard, but is also a lot of fun. It has the potential to speak to new generations who are developing their own cultural identity, and offer a new focus for the city, much needed as Adelaide continues to grow and flourish.”
The winning team, led by New York-based Diller Scofidio and Renfro and Australian practice Woods Bagot also included Oculus, Pentagram, Right Angle Studio, Klynton Wanganeen, Dustin Yellin, Studio Adrien Gardere, Australian Dance Theatre, Deloitte, Ekistics and Katnich Dodd.
Five other shortlisted teams were Adjaye Associates and BVN, Bjarke Ingels Group and JPE Design Studio, David Chipperfield Architects and SJB Architects, Hassell and SO-IL, and Khai Liew, Office of Ryue Nishizawa and Durbach Block Jaggers.
The jury comprises Michael Lynch (chair), Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin (Australia Council for the Arts, L-AB and Associates and South Australian Film Corporation), Beatrice Galilee (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Walter Hood (Hood Design Studio), David Knox (Economic Development Board of South Australia and Adelaide Botanic Gardens Foundation), Toshiko Mori (Toshiko Mori Architect and Harvard University Graduate School of Design), Lisa Slade (Art Gallery of South Australia), Sally Smart (University of Melbourne and renowned contemporary artist) and Tracey Whiting (Art Gallery of South Australia Board).
The design competition for Adelaide Contemporary was launched in October 2017 and the shortlisted teams were announced in December. The competition is organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants.
The outcome of the competition was, at the time of its announcement, intended to inform a final business case and funding approval for the project.
Prior to the South Australian election in March 2018, the then opposition announced an alternative proposal for the ORAH site that would include an Aboriginal art and culture gallery and a 16-storey hotel.
Following the release of the shortlisted designs, premier Steven Marshall said in a statement, “[The jury] deliberations will bring to a close this stage of the project initiated by the former government.”
“We want to create on the oRAH site one of the most significant new arts and cultural destinations of 21st century Australia,” he said.
“Our plan will provide a national focal point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and cultures as well as new spaces for major exhibitions, and the opportunity to unlock the hidden treasures of South Australia’s cultural institutions.
“This truly unique and ground-breaking precinct is destined to become a beacon of artistic, cultural and architectural excellence internationally as a culmination of the long-held plans of the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia to better showcase their collections.”
In May, Marshall told the media the government was “pressing the pause button” on both options. “What we want to do is to work with the two major collections and [the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute] to work out what we can envisage for this site,” he told the ABC.