The redevelopment of the MCA at Sydney’s Circular Quay was approved in 2008, but the neccessary funds to build the new Wing to the MCA have now been gathered together and allocated for construction to commence. The MCA will consolidate its role as a locally loved national arts institution, and the creation of the National Centre for Creative Learning will strengthen the MCA’s position as an international Museum of Contemporary Art.
Enabling construction will begin in June 2010 and the project is expected to be completed in early 2012. The design, by innovative architect Sam Marshall in partnership with the NSW Government Architect, will complement the existing building and energise The Rocks precinct and Circular Quay.
The extension to the north of the existing MCA building will be appropriately named the Mordant Wing in recognition of the philanthropic support of the Mordant family. The Mordant Wing will provide a Centre for Creative Learning of national significance, housing workshop spaces for schools and after-school youth programs. There will be new facilities for the Museum’s renowned Bella program for young people with special needs, a digital classroom, multi-media room, library and resource room and a lecture theatre/new media events space. In addition, the extension will house additional Gallery space.
The redevelopment plans respond to audience demands as MCA attendances continue to break records, with more than half a million people viewing MCA exhibitions and an additional 100,000 people utilising the MCA venue spaces each year.
The Museum building was originally designed by Government architect W.H. Withers in 1939, but due to the war and labour shortages construction was not completed until 1952. The building first housed the Maritime Services Board – one of the most powerful government Authorities of the time.
The redevelopment of the art deco building on the Harbour foreshore will see the addition of a modern structure that echoes the progressive and contemporary nature of the new tenants. “The new extension provides the MCA with a striking architectural signifier which reflects the contemporary work of the institution, whilst respecting the existing building’s architecture,” Marshall says.
With a team of advisors consisting of Alec Tzannes of Tzannes Associates, Ken Maher of Hassell, Professor Tom Heneghan and artist Mikala Dwyer providing feedback, Marshall’s designs have been well considered.
The $53 million upgrade will be jointly funded by the Australian ($14.3 million) and NSW ($13 million) governments, with the balance coming from the Museum itself and private donors – including a $15 million from the Chairman of the MCA’s Foundation Simon Mordant and his family.
As well as being equipped with state-of-the-art communication facilities, the new National Centre will house a 150 seat multimedia theatre, an artists’ resource centre, new galleries and art education spaces, a rooftop cafe and sculpture terrace and accommodation for the Bella Program for children with special needs.
Sam Marshall’s cubist design for the MCA won planning approval in July 2009.
Due for completion in 2012 the project will include a new Northern – wing with two new five-metre-high column-free galleries – as well as refuribished galleries and lecture theatres, new workshop and office spaces, covered outdoor terraces and a café.