Garden Gallery – Art Pavilion

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Project: NGV Architecture Commission 2019

Project Type: Competition

Client: National Gallery of Victoria

Location: NGV, Melbourne, Australia

Value: $250,000

Size: Pavilion; 100 m2


‘Garden Gallery’ serves as a canvas for art, inspired by the courtyards of Roy Ground’s 1967 National Gallery of Victoria, an austere and minimal pavilion, opens to the sky and heightens the experience of Willem de Kooning’s 1969 standing figure.

The proposal reflects on contemporary Art & Architecture, masters such as artist James Turrell & his ability to exquisitely frame the sky, Ryue Nishizawa’s sublime white Teshima Art Museum bound with droplets of water and Peter Zumthor’s intimate experience of a garden, overlap and build a contemporary language deeply connected with the landscape.

The scheme takes inspiration from place, reflecting on Kooning’s fluid drawings held at the NGV (see figures below right) a curved aperture focusing a beam of light on his bronze sculpture. The outdoor courtyard guides memories of Roy Ground’s original open environments; a place where sculptures were displayed in natural sunlight, atmosphere and rain.

Roy Grounds inspiration for the NGV came from fortress like architecture; “On a 1960 trip to Europe and the United States with NGV Director Eric Westbrook, Grounds was inspired by the 18th-century Palazzo di Capodimonte outside Naples and the medieval Castello Sforzesco, Milan.” (Philip Goad, Melbourne Architecture).

A striking history of courtyards can be seen (see diagrams), each of the buildings contain a clear geometrical structure pierced by courtyards. In the original 1967 NGV building these open courtyards were used for “putting art works into unexpected relationships – implicitly in connection to a wider world” (Paul Walker, Architecture Australia)

The proposal respects this tradition and reinterprets the defensive fortress like design of the NGV into an austere black pavilion, dark, it de-materializes into the garden with a ‘moat of trees’ protecting a special white courtyard at its heart.

A place of respite; the commission is positioned in a quite zone comfortably away from other buildings on the site. Clear of existing trees and gardens, the pavilion places itself lightly on the existing grass around Kooning’s 1969 standing figure. Its interior includes a café and kiosk for light snacks, providing a moment to pause and relax in the garden.

The pavilion acts as pathway, a universally accessible trail takes visitors on a full journey through the garden, starting and ending at the NGV entry bridge. A temporary ‘moat of trees’ protects the pavilion, its white light filled entry hinting at a special surprise through the trees.

The methodology of construction is simple, fast and efficient, with minimal impact on site. The proposed timber pavilion is sustainable, environmentally friendly and low impact on the site. During construction low cost and low carbon footprint technologies can be used with its simple timber design. During its 6 month operation, low energy & water practices will implemented. With the entire structure timber it can easily be recycled after the project is complete.