Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

AM Project Discover & Cox, Neeson Murcutt &

Project Discover by Cox Architecture, Neeson Murcutt & Neille. Image: Brett Boardman.

2021 Australian Interior Design Awards: Public Design, 3 September 2021

Project Discover by Cox Architecture, Neeson Murcutt and Neille

Jury comment

Project Discover displays a clever re-use of materiality and adaptive re-use of unused or under-utilized space. This alteration of the Australian Museum takes the lead in a category with a number of highly notable submissions by demonstrating a beautiful harmony between old and new. In creating richly expressed amenities, the design is seamless and refreshingly people-focused.

The jury found the project’s spatial legibility and orientation to be particularly appealing. Its reductive aesthetic, inspired use of negative space and sensitive detailing that exposes the interior’s heritage elements are to be commended. They also applauded the designers for achieving a creative transformation, by uncovering spaces that were previously inaccessible to the public and volumes that had not been enjoyed before. Each part of Project Discover greatly improves the visitor’s experience as they move through the space.

Design statement

Project Discover’s interior design aspires to create a singular civic space that gives a “heart” to the Australian Museum. The brief required a 1500-square-metre gallery for “blockbuster” touring exhibitions, enhanced patron facilities, and new spaces for members and education.

The design reveals and celebrates the museum’s rich historic layering by foregrounding authentic heritage through specific strategic removal; creates legibility of movement and wayfinding – both horizontal and vertical – throughout the museum’s existing complexity; enables universal public access throughout, including to the oldest parts of the museum; draws on the palette of existing materials – stone, timber, terrazzo – while introducing as few new materials as possible; explicitly relies on recycled and locally sourced materials; prioritizes selection of locally designed, locally made and environmentally sustainable furniture items; and uses light to curate the circulation experience, from the day-lit Crystal Hall to the dark Parkes Farmer wing reception, to the top-lit Grand Hall.

Design practice — Cox Architecture, Neeson Murcutt and Neille

Project team — Joe Agius, Rachel Neeson, Mark Davey, Stephen Neille, Leanne Mitchell, Joe Grech, Christopher Tran, Nick Gonsalves

The Award for Public Design is supported by Novas. The Australian Interior Design Awards are presented by the Design Institute of Australia and Artichoke magazine. For more images of this project, see the Australian Interior Design Awards gallery.


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