Here's the Plan for Powerhouse Ultimo's Redesign, Including Four Exhibition Halls and a 2000-Square-Metre Courtyard

The Boiler House, Turbine Hall, Switch House and Ultimo Post Office buildings will be transformed to create a quartet of flexible spaces that can host huge exhibitions.
Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
Published on May 03, 2024

The fact that Powerhouse Museum Ultimo is about to look a whole lot different isn't new news. But everyone knows that a makeover of this scale — initially to the tune of $500-million makeover, now budgeted at $250 million — evolves along the way. The transformation was revealed in 2021, then the plan for the revamp was unveiled in 2022, followed by the new design being approved in 2023. The site closed for the renovation in February 2024, for up to three years. Now, the design has been updated.

The winning approach for Powerhouse Museum Ultimo 2.0 has always been about celebrating the current strengths of the building while providing it with a major makeover, with the concept hailing Australian team Architectus, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, Tyrrell Studio, Youssofzay + Hart, Akira Isogawa, Yerrabingin, Finding Infinity and Arup.

This team's design was unanimously selected by the jury following a competition. Included in the transformation are expanded exhibition spaces, a new urban space connected to the neighbouring Goods Line that will work as a public square, revitalised creative studios at the Harris Street end of the building and increased outdoor spaces throughout the museum.

Powerhouse Museum Ultimo's new guise will feature four exhibition halls, as configured from the heritage-listed Boiler House, Turbine Hall, Switch House and Ultimo Post Office buildings. The key: creating flexible spaces that can host huge exhibitions. The Wran building will be refurbished, and the entire revamp will mean that more items from the Powerhouse Collection — which spans 500,000-plus objects — will be able to be displayed.

The site's new public spaces will hero a 2000-square-metre courtyard at the northern end of The Goods Line, alongside Harris Street's Post Office Courtyard and an internal courtyard that can be accessed via Macarthur Street. As previously revealed, the new Powerhouse Museum Ultimo entrance will face The Goods Line, linking in with the new square, with a new facade on Harris Street.

"The new and improved plans bring the museum into the 21st century, and make good on our commitment to retain and improve the focus of the museum on applied arts and sciences," said New South Wales Minister for the Arts John Graham.

"Importantly, in this modest revitalisation we are honouring the history of the museum by revealing the heritage elements of the original Ultimo Power Station buildings and refurbishing the Wran building to achieve greater museum functionality."

"The design addresses specific community and stakeholder feedback through extending the lifespan of the built form, acknowledging and celebrating the social significance of the Wran Building, addressing circulation and legibility and improving sustainability," added Powerhouse Museum Ultimo Chief Executive Lisa Havilah.

'The revitalised Powerhouse Museum Ultimo will reopen with more and increased quality exhibition spaces. This will be achieved by decluttering the spaces — removing mezzanines allows full use of the spaces. This will restore and reveal the original heritage in the buildings and create high-quality flexible exhibition spaces."

If you'd like to have your say about the latest design, you can head online before Thursday, May 30, 2024 during the current plan's exhibition period.

The Powerhouse Museum Ultimo project has undergone a rocky history to get to this point. Back in 2015, Powerhouse Museum Ultimo was earmarked for closure as part of a move to shift the entire facility to Parramatta.

Then, when that idea didn't prove popular, the New South Wales Government committed to revamping and revitalising the existing site, allocating $480–500 million to the makeover. That figure has since been reduced to $250 million, with the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo also adopting a $50-million philanthropy target.

The other Powerhouse Museum location will still be established in Parramatta and is under construction at the moment.

Powerhouse Museum Ultimo closed on Monday, February 5, 2024 for the site's transformation, and is expected to remain shut for three years — head to the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo's website and New South Wales Government website for further information.

Images: DBJ.

Published on May 03, 2024 by Sarah Ward
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x