Bundanon, the Australian art museum designed to withstand floods and fires
There is no single solution to the specter of climate change. Some take a scientific approach, finding renewable sources of clean energy to change the way we live and function. Others seek to educate and inspire, or prevent.
Bundanon, a recently unveiled arts destination in Shoalhaven, southeast Australia, falls into the latter category: a sprawling underground museum designed to survive the tricks of climate change, alongside a creative learning center set up in a 160 meter long flood proof bridge. .
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The museum will be unveiled on January 29 for its inaugural exhibition From impulse to action, featuring – among others – the works of Arthur Boyd, as well as a host of works by new artists. After all, it was Arthur Boyd who gifted the 1,000 ha estate to Australia, along with all of its buildings and its collection of over 2,000 works of art.
Prior to this, the property had long been used as a center for education and exploration of art, science and nature, with a well-established residency program for writers, musicians and performers. Today, the soon-to-be-unveiled museum and bridge herald a new era for the estate, which also has a rich history with indigenous cultures. The project was a collaboration between Kerstin Thompson Architects (who designed the museum), landscape architects Wraight Associates with Craig Burton and sustainable design engineers Atelier 10.
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The museum will not only present a year-round program featuring exhibits of modern, contemporary and First Nations art, but will also house an extensive collection in an on-site storage facility. And by being built into the hill itself, it also reaps the benefits of thermal stability and protection from the elements thanks to several tons of dirt above.
The bridge itself is equally sturdy – built to allow flood waters to flow around its supports, keeping the learning center, accommodations for up to 64 people and dining areas safe ( while offering spectacular views of the Shoalhaven River.It is also a reflection of the ambitions of the net zero emissions domain – the bridge combines solar power with passive temperature management, rainwater harvesting and treatment black water. They also used locally sourced materials during construction and a commitment to reducing the use of fossil fuels.
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Even if you’re a stranger to Australia’s art scene or its rich cultural history, there’s something to be said for the appeal of architecture that’s both sustainable and practical. The new Bundanon Museum is at the same time marking a turning point in the historical field.
Photos by Zan Wimberley.
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