With a limited footprint, Shepparton Art Museum by Denton Corker Marshall goes more up than out – showing how, with clever architecture, less can hold much more

Designed by Denton Corker Marshall

From the architects

The new landmark cultural destination, Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) was designed by internationally renowned architects Denton Corker Marshall.

The design was unanimously selected from an architectural competition and endorsed by Greater Shepparton City Council.

The regional art museum joins Denton Corker Marshall‘s impressive cultural portfolio which includes the Australian Pavilion in Venice, the Melbourne Museum, the Stonehenge Exhibition and Visitors Centre, and the Museum of Sydney.

The Shepparton Art Museum was a great competition to win as it represents such an important cultural contribution to a regional city like Shepparton, says John Denton, Founding Director, Denton Corker Marshall.

“Sitting between the lake and the main road into town from Melbourne it presents a strikingly bold signal - a new contemporary building added to the fabric of the city."

John Denton, Denton Corker Marshall

Designed to act as a ‘live’ building where every surface presents an opportunity for display, event or installation, the new art museum is characterised by simplicity and clarity of materials and form. 

It includes an art museum housing over 4000 artworks, four main gallery spaces including a dedicated Kids Space and Workshops; Visitors’ Information Centre; Kaiela Arts Aboriginal community arts centre; an outdoor amphitheatre and Art Hill; and cafe and 150-person event space and terrace – all within an 5,300m² cubic building.

With a restricted ground floor footprint due to a floodway across the site, the building is extruded vertically over five levels to generate the distinctive small-and-tall art museum with panoramic views across the surrounding lake and Goulburn Red River Gum forest.

Conceived as a ‘land sculpture’ nestled into the surrounding landscape, as the tallest building in Shepparton, it acts as a beacon in the low, flat Shepparton topography. 

The building is about hope and aspiration, with a range of welcoming spaces and places designed to invite all members of the public to meet, enjoy, and call their own through arts and culture.

There’s a play of theatre, performance and comfortable reflection with natural light and views to the landscape connecting people to context and landscape. 

Rebecca Coates, Artistic Director & CEO, Shepparton Art Museum

The external façade of SAM comprises four thin floating perforated L-shaped plates suspended in the landscape whose form references the overhang of traditional Australian verandas that offer shade and shelter. 

Three of the plates comprise powder-coated aluminium with the southern approach incorporating an integrated Visitor’s Centre super graphic and the entry to SAM on Wyndham Street featuring a cut out offering a tantalising glimpse of the interior. 

The rich ochre-red corten steel of the fourth plate faces the lake and river plain.

From a distance, the plates give virtually no indication of interior life and waits to be discovered and explored. 

At their base, they float seemingly unsupported over an open, visibly accessible and highly activated ground plane. 

Each plate is simultaneously an object in its own right and an integral part of the whole. 

The plates group together, at different heights and contrasting materiality, to form a cube composition at a scale comparable to the surrounding red river gums. 

Each facade plate becomes a canvas, layered into the treed landscape of dappled light and shade with the ability to transform as a base for temporary installations or projection imagery.

The design is integrated into the park via a dramatic Art Hill, screening all building services, back-of-house and loading under the expanded parkland. 

The Art Hill creates an upper ground level, enabling the museum cafe to enjoy an elevated outlook while being directly connected to, and accessible from, the park.

Internally, the transparent and accessible museum experience is centred around an open, circulation galleria with four different galleries, totalling 800m², accommodated across four floors – including two major AA rated exhibition spaces which can accommodate exhibitions and loans of international significance. 

The gallery spaces include The Lin Onus Gallery, People’s Gallery, Williamson Community Space, SAM Kids Space, the Bill Kelly Peace Room designed as a collection viewing space, and Showcases at the entrance to SAM and across each floor featuring new commissions and SAM’s ceramics collection. 

The interior design – the interconnected multi-level spaces, materials, texture, with intuitive wayfinding by Studio Ongarato – is overlaid with contrasts of drama, reflection, outlook, information and discovery, all which are conceived as integral elements of the museum experience.

Situated in regional Victoria around two hours’ drive north from Melbourne, SAM is located on the lands of the Yorta Yorta peoples, on the shore of Victoria Park Lake, Shepparton.

 The new building was funded by Local Council, State and Federal funding, and private philanthropic and community support through the SAM Foundation. 

Credit list

Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), Victoria
Kane Constructions
Building surveyors
Steve Watson & Partners
Signage & wayfinding
Studio Ongarato
Landscape architects
Urban Initiatives

Designed by: Denton Corker Marshall

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: John Gollings Photography

14 Nov, 2021

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