The design for the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) is characterised by simplicity and clarity with compelling imagery creating a landmark cultural destination.
The restricted ground floor, required by a floodway across the site, is turned into a real opportunity by extruding the small footprint vertically over five levels, creating a distinctive small and tall art museum.
This has the advantage of maximising much used park space while creating a beacon in the low, flat Shepparton landscape. It also offers prospect to the park, lake and town centre, along with panoramic views of the Goulbourn Red River Gum reserve from the roof top events space.
Design of the expanded park also includes a dramatic Art Hill, screening all building services.
Internally, it is designed to be highly legible, highly transparent and highly accessible art museum experience focused around an open, generous Circulation Galleria.
Integrating the building within expanded parkland is intended to help de-institutionalise SAM making the museum’s art and artefacts more accessible to the wider Shepparton community and visiting tourists. The design has welcoming spaces and places for a diverse range of the community across age and cultural backgrounds.
It incorporates numerous places for community interaction, including a Sculpture Forecourt, Community Arbour, Art Hill performance spaces, cafe and roof top event venue and sheltering verandahs to all four sides.
The art museum is conceived as a ‘live’ building. The interior design and experience – relationship of spaces, intuitive wayfinding, logical relationships – are overlaid with contrasts of drama, reflection, outlook, introspection and discovery.
It is a building that is a delight to work in and a pleasure to visit – again and again. The internal imagery – interconnected multi-level spaces, materials, texture – are conceived as integral elements of an idea that defines the complete museum.
Rather than six designated galleries displaying art and artefacts the design conceives the total building as an art container. Not one gallery but every space in and on SAM is a gallery display opportunity, be it stairs, lobby walls, lift wells, facades, even external toilet block roofs. Every surface presents an opportunity for display, event or installation.
The exterior of SAM comprises four floating L-shaped thin plates suspended abstractly in the landscape. They come together at different heights and materiality to form a striking abstract composition at a scale comparable to the river red gums.
From a distance, the plates give virtually no indication of interior life, this waits to be discovered and explored. At their base, they float seemingly unsupported over an open, visibly accessible and highly activated ground plane. It is about an idea. It will be unexpected and enigmatic, powerful and memorable, to become an architecture that expresses abstraction and compositional clarity.
Each plate is simultaneously an object in its own right and an integral part of the whole. In combination, they define the cubic volume that is the art museum within. They have different metallic finishes. Matt soft charcoal floating above the entry to SAM features a cut out offering a tantalising glimpse of the interior. Low sheen zinc to the southern approach incorporates an integrated Visitor’s Centre super graphic. The western corten steel plate is lowered at its top, providing outlook from the roof terrace. The northern plate is higher, floating above the café terrace and Art Hill.
On all these important frontages, the L to the base of the plate provides essential shade and shelter that, like the traditional verandahs of Shepparton and Australian country towns, creates a transitionary indoor / outdoor realm for exchange and interaction.
The façade plates also present blank canvasses for many forms of installation art at both striking and exalted scales.