Dangrove: Art Storage, Conservation, Curation and Research for the Twenty-First Century

Dangrove, designed by award-winning architects Alec Tzannes Associates to house Judith Neilson’s significant collection of contemporary Chinese art and its archive, has been described as ‘a building of unexpected delight, offering a new way to interact with art’. Like Neilson’s other architectural commissions, such as the White Rabbit Gallery, Phoenix Central Park, and Indigo Slam, the central idea was to bring art and architecture together, creating a structure that combines practicality, sustainability, beauty and innovation. ‘Our aim was to reinterpret what a functional art storage facility does, creating a new typology that would also serve other collection-related purposes,’ Tzannes told Architecture AU’s Linda Cheng. Far more than a storage facility, Dangrove is a creative space that includes the functions of conservation, curation, research, display and audience interaction.

Dangrove’s 10,000 square metres of light-filled space is constructed from a concrete linear volume on two levels. Large installations and other artworks can be displayed in the dramatic 90-metre long Great Hall, which is also designed to accommodate events, including performance art works. Clad in an innovative polycarbonate double wall system which allows natural light into the Great Hall but blocks 99 percent of UV rays, the stepped ceiling soars from 8 metres at the street-facing end to 30 metres in height. Apart from state-of-the-art, museum-standard storage spaces for the collection, the building contains another large open space for groups to gather for events or educational site visits, a beautiful library looking onto an internal courtyard garden, a commercial kitchen, offices and an AV viewing room. Sustainability is an important aspect of all Judith Neilson’s architectural projects, and Dangrove is no exception; the brief presented to Tzannes Associates required consideration of the building’s energy use and carbon footprint. 600 PV cells were added to the roof to supplement power, and water collection tanks recycle water to mechanical equipment, garden irrigation, maintenance and cleaning. Completed in early 2018, Dangrove won the Australian Steel Institute Award for Large Projects: the use of structural steel was integral to the design, and key to the aesthetics of the project.

Internationally, Dangrove sets a new benchmark for art storage, and provides a new model for integrating storage with viewing, curation, conservation, display and research.

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