A $57.5 million renovation of the Australian Museum, known as Project Discover, has been named Best Public Building at the 2023 Property Council of Australia’s (PCA) Innovation & Excellence Awards.
Celebrated for stripping back past layers of the building to expose the historical essence of the original museum, Project Discover (Stage 1) received the Woods Bagot award – which recognises excellence in a new or refurbished building – at the PCA Awards in Sydney on 23 August 2023.
Project Discover is the largest renovation ever undertaken at the Australian Museum, adding more than 3000 square metres of new public space. Led by architect Rachel Neeson from Neeson Murcutt + Neille and Joe Agius from Cox Architecture, the complex adaptive reuse project delivered a touring exhibition hall, enhanced visitor facilities, as well as member and education spaces.
The PCA award is the tenth major accolade received by Project Discover. Other major recognitions include the National Award for Public Architecture and three major awards at the 2021 Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) NSW Architecture Awards, including its top honour, the NSW Architecture Medallion. The project has also taken home the 2021 Australian Interior Design Awards – Award for Public Design, 2021 DIA Designers Australia Awards – Award of Merit and 2021 National Trust Awards – Commendation for Conservation: Built Heritage.
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Australian Museum Director and CEO Kim McKay AO said the team is excited by the recognition of the renovated new spaces, which is the first step in transforming the heritage buildings of the Australian Museum into a contemporary, open and light-filled cultural space for visitors.
“Project Discover has opened up the Australian Museum and helped achieve our goals of improving the visitor experience and attracting more visitors,” she said.
“The result is a new civic space for Sydney where visitors enjoy the architecture alongside the exhibitions, including our newly renovated permanent Pasifika Gallery – Wansolmoana, opening in October, and the upcoming blockbuster exhibition Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs, which opens in November.”
Project Discover was completed on time and on budget, said McKay, enabling the Australian Museum to accommodate world-class exhibitions and provide opportunities for scientists, curators, visitors and the community.