The NSW Government Has Given Powerhouse Museum's New Parramatta Site the Green Light

The existing Ultimo venue is still sticking around — but the new location will spread across 18,000 square metres of museum exhibition and public space.
Sarah Ward
February 14, 2021

In the coming years, Sydneysiders will be able to visit the city's Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, with plans to open a flagship site in the city's west officially getting the final go ahead.

Set to spread across 18,000 square metres of museum exhibition and public space, Powerhouse Museum will build its new location next to the Parramatta River — and will become the first of the state's major cultural institutions to be located in area in the process.

The New South Wales Government initially announced its intentions to completely move the Powerhouse Museum back in 2015, so the new venue itself isn't fresh news. The plans for the Parramatta site have just been approved, however, and early works are now scheduled to commence in the coming weeks.

When it's finished, it's expected that the new venue — which will specifically focus on science and technology — will attract two million visitors per year, with Powerhouse Board of Trustees President Peter Collins AM QC calling it "Australia's very own Smithsonian". If you're wondering what it'll look like when it opens in 2023, Moreau Kusunoki and Genton's winning designs for the new facility were released in 2019. They include seven exhibition spaces, plus 1.5 hectares of public open space, some of which will replace the carpark on the foreshore.

Exactly where Sydney's Powerhouse Museum will reside has been the subject of much debate in recent years. Originally, the current Ultimo base was set to close, with everything moving to Parramatta; however, the NSW Government then backflipped on that part of the proposal. So, the museum is now retaining its existing venue and keeping it open, while still forging ahead with the new western Sydney location — which'll become one of four sites used by the museum in the Greater Sydney area.

Although staunchly backed by the NSW Government, the Parramatta plan has earned both opposition and controversy since it was first revealed. Concerns have been raised around the cost (which has been earmarked at $645 million, but could hit $1 billion), the fact that St George's Terraces and the heritage-listed 1800s villa Willow Grove will need to be knocked down, and worries that the new Parramatta site could be subject to flooding when wet and stormy weather hits. An inquiry into the government's management of the Powerhouse Museum is also currently underway in NSW's upper house.

The Powerhouse Museum is currently located at 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, with the organisation's new Parramatta museum slated to open in 2023.

Images: Renders of Powerhouse's Parramatta site.

Published on February 14, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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