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Diller Scofidio + Renfro wins £150m Adelaide gallery contest

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has triumphed in the international contest for a £150 million contemporary art gallery in Adelaide

The New York practice, working with Woods Bagot Architects, was chosen ahead of five other teams – including bids led by UK practices Adjaye Associates and David Chipperfield Architects – for the 15,000m2 offshoot of the city’s world-famous Art Gallery of South Australia.

The shortlist for the two-stage Adelaide Contemporary contest, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, also included BIG, Melbourne’s Hassell and Tokyo’s Office of Ryue Nishizawa.

The estimated £150 million project will create a new destination for contemporary art on the city’s North Terrace boulevard, close to the parent gallery and botanic gardens. It will also include an outdoor sculpture park and a Gallery of Time exploring Aboriginal, European and Asian art and culture.

The new building will be constructed on the site of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital, which is on the traditional lands of the region’s indigenous Kaurna people.

The surrounding area is considered rich in Kaurna heritage, and the competition brief encouraged the participation of local producers, entrepreneurs and businesses.

DS+R’s winning scheme featured a ‘Super Lobby’, floating top-floor sky galleries and a suspended rooftop garden inspired by ‘Minkunthi’, the Kaurna word ‘to relax’.

Australian arts supremo Michael Lynch, chair of the jury and the Art Gallery of South Australia Board’s newly appointed special adviser, said: ‘The winning team’s concept design responds to this once-in-a-generation opportunity for a landmark building in the heart of the city, positioned on the edge of the Botanic Garden. In a city famous for its festivals, the design creates a new place that embraces art in all of its forms and appeals to a broad audience, both local and international.’

He continued: ‘The jury was impressed by the winning team’s assured understanding of the future of art, performance and 21st-century programming, as well as its flair for placemaking. It was an inspired insight by the winning team to conceive the building stepping down along the topography of the site and so creating a genuine connection to site and country, respectful to the Kaurna people as well as integrating the botanic garden into the design.’

Competition director Malcolm Reading, said: ‘The competition centred on healing Adelaide’s civic realm. The former hospital created a physical disconnect between the cultural boulevard and the botanic gardens. What better way to connect the two than by using art?

‘The winning scheme is tightly-engineered, works the site hard, but is also a lot of fun. It has the potential to speak to new generations who are developing their own cultural identity, and offer a new focus for the city, much needed as Adelaide continues to grow and flourish.’

The competition attracted 107 entries, representing more than 525 individual firms from five continents with more than a third based in Australia. Less than a 10th of entries came from the United Kingdom while more than a fifth were US based.

The six finalist teams received AU£90,000 (£54,000) for their work and their designs in the competition, which was endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects.

The full shortlist

  • Adjaye Associates (London, UK) and BVN (Sydney, Australia)
  • BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group (Copenhagen, Denmark) and JPE Design Studio (Adelaide, Australia)
  • David Chipperfield Architects (London, UK) and SJB Architects (Sydney, Australia)
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro (New York, USA) and Woods Bagot (Adelaide, Australia) [WINNER]
  • HASSELL (Melbourne, Australia) and SO-IL (New York, USA)
  • Khai Liew (Adelaide, Australia), Office of Ryue Nishizawa (Tokyo, Japan) and Durbach Block Jaggers (Sydney, Australia)
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