The design of SAM is characterised by simplicity and clarity, with compelling imagery creating a landmark cultural destination for Shepparton. It is located on the approach to the town centre, within a popular park within the flat Goulburn River Plain.
The scheme was won in a limited competition. It includes an art museum, Visitors’ Information Centre, Kaiela Arts Aboriginal Community Arts Centre and 150 person event space able to operate out of hours for conferences, weddings and social occasions, all within a 5,000m2 cubic form.
A restricted ground floor, required due to a floodway across the site, was turned into a design opportunity. The small footprint was extruded vertically over five levels to generate the distinctive small-and-tall art museum. This strategy maximises much used park space, while also creating a beacon in the low, flat Shepparton landscape. The height also affords panoramic views from the rooftop events space across the lake and Goulburn Red River Gum Reserve beyond.
The design is ingeniously 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 has the advantage of effectively creating an upper ground level, enabling the museum cafe to enjoy an elevated outlook whilst being directly connected to, and accessible from, the park.
Internally, it is a highly legible, transparent and accessible museum experience, centred around an open, circulation galleria. The interior design – the relationship of spaces, intuitive wayfinding, logical relationships – are overlaid with contrasts of drama, reflection, outlook, introspection and discovery.
Four different galleries, totalling 800m2, are accommodated. Two of the galleries are designed to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers) Class AA standard to be able to accommodate exhibitions on loan from premium museums and galleries. This required dedicated AHU and preconditioners along with the building envelope, internal partitions and glass sliding doors being designed to higher air tightness requirements. Similar standards are applied to the preparation and conservation rooms and collection storage.
The facades of SAM comprise four thin floating L-shaped plates suspended in the landscape. They group together, at different heights and contrasting materiality, to form a composition at a scale comparable to the red river gums. By subverting the expression of built form into a composition of abstract sculptural elements, scale becomes indeterminate.
This allows each facade plate to become a canvas, layered into the treed landscape of dappled light and shade, able to transform as a base for temporary installations or projection imagery as an integral rather than incidental characteristic.
SAM is a building whose physical form is surrendered to a shifting play of colour and patina changing with weather and time of day. It is simultaneously powerful and recessive. Each plate is an element in its own right, powerful enough to be eroded with a combination of large punched and smaller perforated openings where outlook, from within, is required. In effect, the building is conceived as ‘land sculpture’.
1. Facade cladding: Anodised aluminium, Corten Steel
Recycled Iron Bark timber – EcoTimber Group,
2. Flooring: Honed and polished concrete.
3. Doors: Internal glazed partitions – Criterion
Operable walls – Dorma, Lotus
4. Interior lighting: Gallery lighting - Erco, iGuzzini