Dangrove was designed by award-winning architects TZANNES to house Judith Neilson’s significant collection of contemporary Chinese art. Also, home to the collection’s archive, the structure 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 monument that combines practicality, sustainability, beauty, and innovation.
‘We aimed to reinterpret what a functional art storage facility does, creating a new typology that would also serve other collection-related purposes,’ Alec 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 10,000sqm 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 Great Hall, which is also fashioned to accommodate events, including performance artworks. This grand room is designed for art of all types to be temporarily displayed, evaluated, and curated. Approximately 90m long and 18m wide, the plan is formed by regular bays across the length and in cross-section by a ceiling that steps in height from 6m to 28m at each bay. A soft even light floods the space through a double skin of UV reducing polycarbonate material above a wall datum of polished concrete. Sculptural concrete skylights terminate the Great Hall at each end to heighten the sensory experience of natural light within.
Aside from state-of-the-art, museum-standard storage spaces for the collection, the building contains another, grand open space for groups to gather for events or educational site visits. In one wing is a beautiful hidden library, gazing out onto an internal courtyard garden. In another, a commercial kitchen, offices, and an AV viewing room. 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.
The brief for Dangrove required art storage to be integrated with curatorial requirements, informal exhibition and performance spaces, research facilities, workshops, and other related functions. It also required construction to be designed for a minimum 100-year life, deliver low net energy use, and have a small carbon footprint.
With approximately 10,000sqm of internal space, the architecture is formed from a hierarchy of experiences created by the arrangement of unique spaces, their connection, and the use of light. A journey through the building is choreographed to enhance viewing experiences and understanding of the collection. Dangrove aims to set a new benchmark for art storage and curation, reflecting the vision of Judith Neilson.
Photographs by Ben Guthrie