Bates Smart Director Kristen Whittle explains:
“Our approach for creating a ‘uniquely Australian’ experience was to analyse and abstract qualities of the extraordinary landscape across the country. The beguiling colour, especially the earthy and russet tones of the desert, the strong horizon line and expanse of skies that characterises many of our distinct panoramas and the distinct clear bright light of our natural environment.”
The exterior of the building embodies these ideas both through its materiality and form. The unique and distinctive folded façade is a combination of treated copper and glass which cast an array of soft shadows across the building. The colouration of the metal, with its reddish tonality creates beauty and warmth and is evocative of desert landscapes. The glass emphasises the importance of light and creates a sense of openness throughout. The building addresses the prominent Washington roundabout, Scott Circle, and the façade responds directly to the changing line of approach this context provides. From the north, a greater extent of the metal façade is presented, reflecting the solidity and red brick language of the surrounding 16th Street neighbourhood. To the south, the façade opens up with a greater extent of glass, maximising the views towards the White House and generating a more civic appearance to the building. The combination of the folded façade and a changing line of approach creates a dynamism that responds to the Washington context, whilst creating a distinctive and memorable architectural response.
The ground floor is presented as a generous and welcoming two-storey exhibition space. The extensive use of clear glass enables visitors to view the collection of Australian art and any accompanying exhibitions before entering the building.
The surrounding gardens slope upwards from the streetscape towards the exhibition spaces to create an immersive landscape setting. Street facing outdoor courtyards punctuate the landscape providing additional focal outdoor areas for art and exhibitions.
Security requirements have been seamlessly integrated into both the building and landscape design to ensure that an open and inviting environment is experienced. Sustainable design features include a green roof with an extensive photovoltaic array, a high performance thermally efficient façade, zoned air conditioning with heat recovery, and water capture and reuse.
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