Shepparton Art Museum / Denton Corker Marshall
Text description provided by the architects. SAM’s design is characterized by its simplicity and clarity, with compelling imagery creating a historic cultural destination for Shepparton. It is located on the approach to the city center, in a popular park on the flat plain of the Goulburn River. The project was won in a limited competition. It includes an art museum, visitor information center, Kaiela Arts Indigenous community art center and 150-person event space that can operate after hours for conferences, weddings and events. social, all within a radius of 5,000 m2 cubic shape.
A restricted ground floor, required due to a bypass channel through the site, has been turned into a design opportunity. The small footprint was extruded vertically over five levels to generate the distinctive small and large art museum. This strategy maximizes the heavily used park space, while also creating a lighthouse in the flat, low landscape of Shepparton. The height also offers a panoramic view from the rooftop event space across the lake and the Goulburn Red River Gum Preserve beyond.
The design is ingeniously integrated into the park via a spectacular art hill, hiding all construction services, the rear of the house, and the cargo below the enlarged park. The Art Hill has the advantage of effectively creating an upper ground level, allowing the museum café to enjoy an elevated view while being directly connected and accessible from the park.
Internally, it is a very readable, transparent and accessible museum experience, centered around an open circulation gallery. Interior design – the relationship of spaces, intuitive orientation, logical relationships – is superimposed on contrasts of drama, reflection, perspective, introspection and discovery. Four different galleries, totaling 800m2, are hosted.
Two of the galleries are designed to the AA standard of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) to accommodate exhibits on loan from high-end museums and galleries. This required dedicated AHUs and preconditioners, as well as the building envelope, internal partitions and sliding glass doors designed to meet higher air tightness requirements. Similar standards are applied to the preparation and conservation rooms and to the storage of collections.
SAM’s facades consist of four thin L-shaped floating plates suspended in the landscape. They come together, at different heights and contrasting materialities, to form a composition on a scale comparable to red river gums. By subverting the expression of the constructed form into a composition of abstract sculptural elements, the scale becomes indeterminate. This allows each facade plaque to become a canvas, layered against the tree-lined landscape of dappled light and shadow, capable of transforming into a base for temporary installations or projection images as an integral feature rather than an accessory.
SAM is a building whose physical form is subjected to a changing play of color and patina changing with the time and the hour of the day. It is both powerful and recessive. Each plate is an element in its own right, powerful enough to be eroded with a combination of large perforated openings and small perforated openings where perspective, from within, is required. Indeed, the building is designed as an “earthly sculpture”.