Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

The ongoing creation of unique contemporary art never fails to amaze me. When you think it has all been done, new expressions arise. It is this art that inspires me the most.

What the MCA required was simple yet highly complex due to the existing building, early Colonial remains under the site and being located in a historic precinct. Apart form coherent circulation throughout, dedicated education spaces and flexible gallery spaces, the building had to be a contemporary signifier – a building recognisably a contemporary art museum. All these had to serve the art, as it is all about the art and its undistracted display.

Analysis of the solids and voids in the built form of Circular Quay, particularly the Rocks, shows roads running along the contours and narrow passages down between these roads. These provide pedestrian short cuts as well as vistas to the harbour. It is surprising how many there are. This device has been employed in the new building to reconcile the schism of entry levels from Circular Quay and George Street bing on different levels. An internal ‘street’ has been formed to allow easy access and get people to a point from which the gallery experience would commence. Like the narrow passages, views and pedestrian traffic flow through the building.

The initial form generator was the white box. The MCA’s practice is to create spaces that accommodate the art. They require very simple white box-like spaces that curators can reconfigure. The starting point for the design. The double height gallery on the prominent north-eastern corner is the clearest expression of this idea. Interior white walls and exterior bounding white GRC (glass reinforced cement) are separated from the rest of the building.


Project Type


140 George St, Sydney, Australia

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  • Sam Marshall