New entrance for Australian Museum

An artist’s impression of the Australian Museum’s new contemporary glass entrance called the Crystal Hall. Source: SMH Photo: Fiona Morris.

Media Release: Australian Museum, 30 January 2015

The Deputy Premier Troy Grant has unveiled the design for the new glass entrance to the Australian Museum, the Crystal Hall, which was designed by award-winning Sydney-based Neeson Murcutt Architects.

Stage one of the Australian Museum transformation also includes a new permanent gallery, the first to be added to the Museum in over 50 years. Wild Planet will feature more than 400 animal specimens telling the story of global biodiversity, while returning this magnificent 1860s heritage gallery to its former glory.

The builders, Kane Constructions, started work this week, and we will soon relocate the café from the ground floor to the level 4 roof top. The new Rooftop Café opening in early February features spectacular views of the city skyline.

Crystal Hall and Wild Planet will open in the middle of the year. The Museum remains open every day as usual throughout the construction.

James Robertson ‘Australian Museum makeover announced: new Crystal Hall entry’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 2015

The face of the Australian Museum will be remade with a new glass entrance hall, a major contemporary addition to the country’s first museum.

The museum’s entry will shift from its entrance on College Street. Visitors will instead enter through a new facade, measuring eight metres by 20 metres and pleated with crystalline glass diamonds, on the William Street side.

“The Louvre has its glass pyramid, the Australian museum will have its own spectacular entry hall,” said the museum’s head, Kim McKay.

An empty substation underneath the new entrance will be converted into a sheltered garden.

Rachel Neeson, a director of Neeson Murcutt, the architects behind the project, said the state government’s brief requested a structure that conveyed the image of a modern and transparent institution.

She said working with glass was a considerable challenge for a north-facing building filled with queues of people.

The architects took their inspiration from the museum’s collection of gemstones. The result is a double-glazed window set against coloured glass diamonds that casts coloured light onto the hall and keeps it cool.

The museum’s old entry – currently a cafe – will be converted into a new 630 square metre gallery that will host an exhibition on biodiversity, Wild Planet.

“Wild planet is the first permanent gallery to be added in over 50 years and will transform visitors’ experience of the museum,” said the state’s deputy premier and arts minister Troy Grant who announced the renovation.

The cafe will be relocated to the fourth floor, with a view over St Mary’s Cathedral and Hyde Park.

Entry for people with a disability – previously separate – will be provided through a new ramp connected to the entry hall.

The  $5.5 million project is expected to be completed within six months and will be followed by further works.

“At the same time [as this renovation] we’re doing the planning for a much bigger transformation of the museum,” said Catherine Livingstone, the president of the Australian Museum Trustees.

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