Nishi Gallery Pavilion


Nishi Gallery Pavilion

LocationNewActon, Canberra, ACT
ClientMolonglo Group
ServicesArchitecture, Landscape Architecture
Site Area270 sqm (2,900 sqft) Site Area
120 sqm (1,300 sqft) Building Floor Area
Budget$1.2 million AUD

The clients requested the construction of a Nishi Sales Suite that could be repurposed into an art gallery after its primary use had been served. This vision was grounded in the concept of waste reduction and reuse. OCULUS worked in collaboration with hungerford + edmunds architects and the Molonglo Group to develop a building that was both architecture and landscape. The building was designed to accommodate a series of uses and is not program-specific; it is essentially an empty shell to be transformed by a series of uses over time. The “Y”-shaped building highlights this split personality and its ability to open up to the gardens effectively blurs the inside/outside relationships. The raw quality of the outer concrete shell is more akin to an explosive reaction and is in stark contrast to the smooth surfaces of the interior gallery spaces.

The gallery sits alongside the NewActon heritage building and is sympathetic to the original 1927 landscape in both scale and form. The project is unique in that the building was intentionally designed at the same time as the surrounding landscape so that the gallery became part of the landscape, rather than the landscape being a response to the gallery. Another unique aspect of the project was the client’s emphasis that making and crafting be an integral part of the project.

The gallery is as much a textural experience as a visual experience. The rough exterior was achieved, after much experimentation, through the use of hand-etched polystyrene form liners in the casting of the concrete walls. This is contrasted with the smooth interior walls. The gallery has two main apertures which face garden and sculpture spaces to the north east, providing gallery space that can work as a single display space with two aspects, or as two distinct display spaces, each with strong visual connection to the landscape.

Both the Kendall Lane and Parkes Way elevations have two punched openings—the first being a large window, the second being a fully glazed slice through the building with fully-operable glazed timber sliding doors and a glass roof shaded with photovoltaic cells. The environmentally considered design has high thermal mass, double-glazed timber window joinery, an air-tight and highly insulated envelope, natural ventilation, a photovoltaic system, and rainwater-harvesting.