Sydney Modern Project complete

Sydney Modern Project complete

Construction on the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW)’s Sydney Modern Project is now complete, marking the opening of Sydney’s most significant cultural development since the Opera House.

Located on Gadigal Country in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, the $344 million Sydney Modern is the first museum in Australia to be awarded a 6-star Green Star rating, supported by a regenerated landscape offering that champions connectivity, biodiversity, and environmental excellence.

Interdisciplinary design studio McGregor Coxall delivered landscape architecture services for the Sydney Modern Project’s public domain and art gardens, working in collaboration with Tokyo-based architectural and design firm, SANAA and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The project team also includes Architectus (Principal Architects), Arup (Engineering), Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN; Landscape Architecture), Jonathan Jones (Landscape Architecture) and Richard Crookes Constructions (Construction Contractor).

The landscape design includes several publicly accessible outdoor spaces that allow for the display and enjoyment of art, including a public art garden, entry plaza, courtyards and three accessible roof terraces. A network of eight unique landscape spaces have been developed reflecting Gadigal’s landscape using native planting and existing topography. The public domain itself bolsters Sydney’s Cultural Ribbon by creating a nexus between the Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, CBD, The Domain, and Woolloomooloo. “We saw the landscape as an opportunity to complement the architecture in a meaningful way,” said Adrian McGregor, Project Director and Chief Design OFficer at McGregor Coxall.

“We wanted to showcase the site in the most natural, pristine way possible – the way it was prior to European settlement. Through a simplified design, we’re able to create a native wilderness that gracefully extends the Botanic Gardens’ ecological character while bringing back rare species that celebrate indigenous practice.

“That native wilderness is the cohesive foundation that unites all nodes around the site, a breath of natural Sydney that welcomes Gallery-goers and commuters. Close to 50,000 plants and 200 trees will greatly enhance biodiversity, while initiatives such as wildflower roof gardens and maximised shade will help reduce heat island effect and absorb stormwater.”

Gadigal’s remnant native landscape on the hillside and its underlying rocky sandstone geology were the inspiration for creating new endemic gardens that surround the pavilions. The new gardens seek to restore Country and provide an ecological framework of trees and understory plantings that will mature over time. To reduce heat island effect and absorb stormwater, 585m2 of green roof is located on the pavilions planted with Australian wildflowers. These species help attract and sustain Sydney’s native bee population by providing a diverse source of pollen and nectar. Developed in close collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden, roof garden species were carefully selected to ensure maximum biodiversity benefits. The green roof features 3,500 yam daisies, a traditional food of the Gadigal People specifically grown for the project. In a first for Sydney, the wildflower roof gardens are a seed bank for the rare daisies that were once widespread.An immersive day-night offering, Sydney Modern’s extension into its wider city context and surrounding open spaces respect and amplify public usage. Design clarifies pedestrian access and movement, improving the visitor experience and connections to landscape.

“Connectivity was paramount to the outcome we see today. With breathtaking views across the Harbour, the landscape creates a nexus between the Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, CBD, The Domain, and Woolloomooloo to bolster Sydney’s cultural ribbon,” said McGregor. “For commuters and visitors alike, the natural setting will provide a truly unique, 24/7 experience in the city scape.”

“After eight years of collaboration and hard work, it’s truly a proud moment for McGregor Coxall and the wider project team to see this beautiful piece come together.”

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