With the release of the competition entries for the new Powerhouse at Parramatta, Lawrence Toaldo, Conrad Gargett’s Managing Director, reflects on the scheme led by Steven Holl Architects.
The design proposal for MAAS (Museum of Applied Art and Science) was conceived as an anthropological vessel to contain the museum’s precious collection, the striking form an appropriate answer to the requirement for this building to be NSW’s next Opera House. This strategy supported one of the first decisions made by Steven, to conserve both of the existing heritage buildings on the site, Georges Terraces and Willow Grove. The decision to lift the museum’s collection out of the Parramatta floor plan, simultaneously offered the Parramatta CBD a more generous link to the river whilst providing much needed public space, a significant portion of it covered. With the museum only resting on a quarter of the site, the plaza achieved the requirement for this space to support large outdoor events for up to 10,000 people. The signature gallery, bridging the plaza, was conceived as a generous public room for the people of Parramatta, its structural expression reflecting the traditional woven traps used by indigenous people to catch food, a perfect synthesis of science and art.