Sydney and Parramatta both need a MAAS facility

The Australian Institute of Architects (the Institute) welcomes NSW Labor’s announcement of support for retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo while maintaining a commitment to build a world-class cultural institution at Parramatta. With Western Sydney’s growing population already exceeding two million, the case for a new MAAS facility in Parramatta is overwhelming and the Institute continues to support its development. But to downgrade the Ultimo Powerhouse is to short-change Sydney.

The Institute recently endorsed the design competition developed for the new MAAS in Parramatta. In doing so, the Institute has endorsed a competition process, not a policy.

‘Regardless of who is in government after the upcoming election, we would like to see a MAAS Parramatta facility go ahead, beginning with an exemplary design excellence competition and resulting in a built outcome that delivers ongoing value and benefit for the community and for Western Sydney’s architectural culture,’ explained NSW Chapter President Mr Andrew Nimmo. ‘And we want to see Australia’s world class architects demonstrating their skills on an international stage.’

‘But the facility should complement the Ultimo Powerhouse, not replace it,’ Mr Nimmo continued. ‘The latter contributes to a cultural ribbon that stretches from Central Station to the converted 19th century goods line, weaving by highlights including the ABC and Frank Gehry’s Dr Chau Chak Wing building. The Powerhouse building’s form, its history and its siting within this publicly valuable precinct is integral to the social, cultural, technological and economic story of Sydney.’

There is also the issue of the Ultimo Powerhouse’s high architectural value, which should be celebrated and retained. The adaptive reuse of the building in 1988 won the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter’s highest honour, the Sulman Medal, and it has earned listing on the Institute’s own Register of Significant Buildings. To this end the Institute recommends the government grant the Powerhouse Museum the heritage listing and protections that it deserves as a matter of priority.

‘We need to ensure the integrity of the building itself is maintained in any adaption or upgrade works.’