The NSW Government Is No Longer Completely Moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta

Instead, it'll retain the existing Ultimo site — and still add the new venue planned in Sydney's west.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 05, 2020

Sydney's Powerhouse Museum will no longer close its current Ultimo base and move to a new site in Parramatta, with the New South Wales government backflipping on the relocation. Instead, the museum will retain its existing venue, keeping it open — however, it will still also forge ahead with the new western Sydney location, which'll become one of four sites used by the museum in the Greater Sydney area.

The news reverses a five-year-old plan, with the move first announced back in 2015, designs for the new facility released in 2019 and the venue slated to open in 2023. While staunchly backed by the NSW Government until now, the relocation has earned both opposition and controversy since it was first revealed, including concerns 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.

Powerhouse's Ultimo site was originally due to start closing its operations in Ultimo to the public from July 1, 2020, so the announcement is particularly timely.

In a statement about the news, Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah said that it gives the organisation "the opportunity to continue the legacy of our historic site at Ultimo while building towards our new home of science and technology at Powerhouse Parramatta".

President of the Museum of Applied Arts and Science Trust Professor Barney Glover AO added that "it will give visitors to the Museum's four sites unprecedented access to our extensive collection, in particular at Powerhouse Parramatta which will become the jewel in the crown for our unique cultural institution".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that, with the forthcoming Parramatta venue considered Powerhouse's centrepiece, the Ultimo site may focus on fashion and design — hosting both free and ticketed exhibitions from both fields.

Render of Powerhouse's Parramatta site

As for the construction of the new Parramatta venue, that's clearly still going ahead. In a statement reported by The Guardian, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet advised that the city will "have a world-class facility for the people of western Sydney, a world-class facility here in Ultimo and that's what our people deserve here in our state". Premier Gladys Berejiklian added that "this will allow us to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design at two major locations".

When the Parramatta site opens, it'll be the first time that one of the state's five major cultural institutions will be located in Sydney's west, spreading the city's cultural footprint to an area where third of the state's population live.

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

Published on July 05, 2020 by Sarah Ward
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