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A cultural precinct for the ages
February 1st, 2024

A cultural precinct for the ages

When the innovative Chau Chak Wing Museum opened its doors at the University of Sydney in October 2020, it brought together some of the most important collections of art, history and science under the one roof. Today, the Museum continues to encompass natural history, ethnography, science, visual and decorative arts, historic photography and antiquities, while offering free entry to the public, adding significant cultural value to the university and Sydney at large.

Combining the art and artifacts of the Nicholson Museum, Macleay Museum and the University Art Gallery, the museum contains 2,000sqm of exhibition space, a 400sqm metre temporary exhibition gallery, research and study areas, an auditorium, café, gift shop and a state-of-the-art conservation facility.

Exhibitions at the museum include a permanently displayed ‘mummy room’, featuring the coffins – and mummies – of four people who lived (and died) in Egypt between 1000 BC to AD 100. Indigenous art, Roman antiquities, 19th Century commercial photography, natural history and contemporary art have also featured heavily since its opening.

Externally, the museum is a triumph of design and structural engineering – its striking concrete cube structure reaching 14 metres to the south, overlooking the city skyline. The project was described by Chief University Infrastructure Officer, Greg Robinson, as “showcasing some of the finest off form concrete finishes – externally and internally – that we have seen in NSW.”

The project aims to achieve a 100-year design life of the structure, longevity FDC actioned by galvanising 25% of the reinforcement – and numerous design initiatives that boost its sustainable credentials. Delivered alongside Johnson Pilton Walker, Northrop, IGS, NDY and Coffey, it was an incredibly complex project. The building was constructed entirely without plasterboard, instead the majority of in-ceiling services were cast-in to the Level 4 concrete slab.

On the impact of the museum, donor Dr Chau said, “It is my sincere hope that the Chau Chak Wing Museum not only directly benefits Sydney’s cultural landscape and emerging generations who seek knowledge, but also indirectly encourages others to contribute meaningfully to the enrichment of Australia’s arts and culture.”

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Image credit: Anthony Fretwell