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The MAAS Project

What is the status of the MAAS Project?
On 28 April 2018, the NSW Government announced the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
Following the Powerhouse’s relocation to Parramatta, the Government plans to retain a creative industries presence at Ultimo.

In Ultimo, with additional masterplanning, a connected creative industries hub will nurture and support a vibrant innovation hub and professional community.
While planning progresses, it is ‘business as usual’ at the three MAAS venues – the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, Sydney Observatory and the Museums Discovery Centre – and we invite all members of the community to visit us. Find out what’s on.

What is the NSW Government’s investment in the project?
The new museum in Parramatta will be the largest in NSW and its relocation to Parramatta marks the first time one of NSW’s five major cultural institutions will be entirely located in Western Sydney.
Total net Government investment for the relocation will be $645 million, including the cost of acquiring land at Parramatta.

What are the benefits of this project for NSW?
The NSW Government recognises arts and culture as key contributors to our economy, adding over $16.3 billion to the Gross State Product in 2016-17. A diverse arts and cultural sector makes NSW an even better place to live, work and visit.

The new museum in Parramatta will:

  • be a significant cultural facility for one of Australia’s fastest growing and most diverse populations
  • deliver world-class opportunities for education and research
  • boost economic growth for the region, creating new jobs and partnership opportunities.

What are the next steps for the MAAS Project?
The NSW Government, through the Create NSW is working with MAAS to deliver the new museum in Parramatta.

An international design competition for the new museum and masterplanning for the surrounding precinct will respond to Parramatta’s location and identity and enliven community experience. An international design competition is now underway.

What is the project timeline for the Parramatta and Ultimo sites?

The development of the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct will occur in several stages:

  • Early 2019: International Design Competition
  • 2019: Early works commence in Parramatta
  • 2020 – 2022: MAAS exhibitions tour regionally and nationally
  • 2023: new Powerhouse Parramatta at Parramatta opens

A masterplan for a creative industries precinct in Ultimo is being developed, subject to a Final Business Case due to government in 2019.

Where can I find the Business Case Summary?
The Business Case summary for the relocated Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was released by Infrastructure NSW (INSW) on Saturday, 28 April 2018 and is available here:  Infrastructure NSW’s Business Case Summary.

How was the Business Case developed?
The Business Case is the result of a number of previous studies from the past three years, and is underpinned by extensive architectural, museological, geotechnical, engineering, heritage and flood risk studies.

The NSW Government has worked closely with the MAAS Board of Trustees and Executive team to develop the MAAS Project. In addition, an Expert Advisory Panel of world renowned museum experts provided their input and guidance throughout the process.

The Business Case was independently assessed by INSW, prior to the NSW Government decision.

How was the Business Case informed by community and stakeholder consultation?

Community consultation was an important element of the Business Case and reached more than 500,000 individuals and businesses via two public meetings in July 2017, a staff and volunteer’s session, stakeholder briefings, an online survey and advertisements and notices targeting regional NSW, Western Sydney and CBD.

Pop-up sessions were also held in 2017 at high traffic locations in Parramatta, Blacktown, Bankstown, Casula, Liverpool, Penrith and Ultimo on weekdays and weekends. Material was also developed in Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The Business Case community consultation focused on what the community wanted to see, do and experience at the new museum in Parramatta and the Ultimo site.

The relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney has been championed by both community and business groups.

There will continue to be a range of opportunities during the MAAS Project for the community and stakeholders to have their say.  Subscribe to updates.

How does this relate to the current Upper House Inquiry?
The Museum and Galleries Inquiry was established by the Legislative Council’s Portfolio Committee No. 4 on 23 June 2016, with the reporting date extended to 28 February 2019.
An interim report on the Museums and Galleries Inquiry was published on 18 December 2017. The Government provided its response to the interim report on 18 June 2018.
The Government’s response is available here.

The Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta

What is the new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta?
The new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta will be the largest museum in NSW – built for one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. The new museum will provide the community with knowledge and hands-on experience of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).
New interactive exhibits and environments will allow visitors to explore and experience the museum’s rich exhibits and will enable them to access far more of the MAAS collection.
The new museum in Parramatta will:

  • offer 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space making it the largest museum in NSW
  • give increased access to the internationally significant MAAS collection
  • feature state-of-the-art exhibition halls to host international travelling exhibitions, bringing the very best of the world to Sydney
  • be home to NSW’s first major planetarium
  • deliver Australia’s first dedicated play and learning space devoted to STEAM
  • include 21st century learning spaces and dedicated children’s spaces that encourage natural curiosity and are designed for all
  • form a new living room on the river’s edge, activating the River Plaza through event spaces, cafes and the museum shop
  • offer a range of social environments: large public spaces, cafes and bars, shopping and retail, nooks for casual study, and event and function spaces for celebrations or conferences.

What is the expected size of the new museum in Parramatta?
The new museum in Parramatta will offer 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space making it the largest museum in NSW.

Where will the new museum be located?
The new museum will be the anchor for the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct on the banks of the Parramatta River, which will also include a revamped Riverside Theatres connected by an art bridge.

Parramatta Riverbank is on the Parramatta River at the intersection of Philip Street and Wilde Avenue. It is currently occupied by a series of buildings including the Riverbank Carpark.
On 31 July 2017, the NSW Government reached an agreement with the City of Parramatta Council, with a $140 million in-principle agreement to establish a vibrant cultural hub in Parramatta.

Executed Heads of Agreement attached here.

Why was the Riverbank site in Parramatta selected?
The site was announced in 2016, after an extensive review of possible locations in Parramatta, and detailed considerations of two potential sites.
The site on the banks of the Parramatta River is the ideal location for the new museum, which will serve as an anchor for a new arts and cultural precinct. The site will deliver a vibrant, exciting community hub by the Parramatta River that can be easily accessed and enjoyed day and night.
The NSW Government selected the riverbank site, over another site at Parramatta Golf Course due to its proximity to public transport and easy accessibility for pedestrians.

Is there a risk of flooding?
Appropriate design and engineering measures have been considered as part of the planning for the museum. Engineering studies have been undertaken as part of the Business Case planning process to address the potential for flooding on the site, and appropriate considerations made.

What is a planetarium?

A planetarium is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky. A feature of most planetariums is a large dome-shaped projection screen onto which scenes of stars and planets can be made to appear and move realistically to simulate outer-space.

The new museum in Parramatta will house NSW’s first major planetarium and will offer a space to explore a whole new world. It will be larger than any planetarium in Australia at over 30m wide, this full dome experience will be fitted out with ultra-high-resolution 3D video complemented by multi-channel immersive audio, making it the most advanced visualisation environment in Australia.

What will the new MAAS planetarium be used for? 

The new MAAS planetarium will have the capabilities to go beyond astronomy, and will support visualisation for big data, live video links from across the globe, new film, art and creative commissions and the chance to interactively explore 3D imaged objects from the MAAS collection.

What is the art bridge?
Government and City of Parramatta Council have agreed that an art bridge will link the new museum from the Riverbank’s edge to Riverside Theatres. This new pedestrian bridge is envisaged to form one of the largest public art commissions in NSW.

When will the new museum open in Parramatta?
The new museum is anticipated to open in Parramatta in 2023. In the meantime, explore the MAAS collection at one of its three venues across Sydney. Find out what’s on.

What’s happening with the international design competition?

A search for the best designs and design teams for the new museum is now underway. A winning design and team for the new museum will be announced in the second half of 2019.

Experienced UK-based architectural competition organisers Malcolm Reading Consultants will drive an international search for world-class designs.

The first stage of the competition is an open search for submissions from design firms that have the capability to design a new state-of-the-art museum for Western Sydney. Entries from architect-led design teams from Australia and overseas will be invited during this stage.

Submissions will be reviewed by a suitably qualified evaluation panel. A shortlist of teams will move to stage two of the competition.
Stage two of the competition will see shortlisted design teams receive a detailed brief and be asked to submit a concept design. An honorarium will be awarded to each shortlisted team submitting a compliant submission.

After a Jury consisting of a range of Australian and international experts has assessed the design submissions against evaluation criteria, a winner of the design competition for the new museum at Parramatta will be publicly announced.

Why is a UK company managing the design competition?

A tender process was conducted to identify the ideal organiser for a design competition. Searching worldwide for the best architectural design ideas is key to the Government fulfilling its commitment to delivering a landmark museum for Parramatta.

Malcolm Reading Consultants has the relevant experience to attract top competitors from Australia and around the world.

Why is having a competition important?

Securing the best design ideas and solution is key to delivering a world-class new museum for Parramatta and its surrounding districts.

The new museum will be an anchor for arts and culture for Greater Parramatta and the Central City District more broadly, as well as being a drawcard for international visitors and for boosting the State’s economy.

How will the new museum be relevant to the people of Western Sydney?
The NSW Government and MAAS are committed to delivering the best outcome for the new museum – in our state’s fastest growing and most diverse region, Western Sydney – and want to ensure it is designed with input from the people of Western Sydney and beyond.

The new museum will be a spectacular drawcard for families, industry and educational institutions.
MAAS has already established partnerships and programs in Western Sydney, and the work of the museum reflects communities, ideas and innovations from across NSW and around the world.

Ongoing community consultation will ensure the input of these communities is recognised in the planning of the new museum.
How will the move impact visitor numbers for the museum?

Business Case projections have shown that audiences will exceed those attending the Powerhouse Museum in its current form.

During the construction period, select MAAS collections will embark on a local, state and national tour, taking the collections to a greater number of people.

What will the new museum be called?
There is no decision on the name for the new museum in Parramatta. A name will be determined before the new museum opens in 2023.

Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta 

What is the Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta?
The new museum will be at the core of the new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta and encompass a revamped Riverside Theatres performing arts centre to support a growing and diverse population in Sydney’s central city.
The Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta will introduce new experiences and public spaces along Parramatta’s river foreshore.
Like London’s Here East cultural precinct and Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, Parramatta’s newest cultural precinct will promote the value of the arts.
An international design competition for the new museum and masterplanning for the precinct will respond to the location and Parramatta’s identity, and enliven community experiences.

What about the Riverside Theatres project?
The NSW Government and the City of Parramatta Council have agreed to form a joint-venture to invest $100 million to modernise the Riverside Theatres complex subject to a successful Business Case, which is currently in development.

Investment for revitalisation of the Riverside Theatres is needed to ensure accessibility, improved facilities and to enhance its capacity to attract a full range of productions.

How will the new museum link to existing Western Sydney arts and cultural facilities?
The project team is working closely with the City of Parramatta Council to ensure the new museum forms part of a vibrant arts and cultural precinct that acts as an anchor for the region and fosters a cohesive rejuvenation of the central business district. The Council shares our commitment to the MAAS Project, which features prominently in their new cultural strategy.

What commercial or residential elements will be included in the precinct?
The NSW Government announcement considers commercial development on the site to support a stronger arts and cultural sector and transform the river’s edge into a new place to live, work and meet with new ways to integrate and attract new audiences. The multi-use development will be designed to stimulate the economy and enhance the environment while raising the quality of life for community.

How will the new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta connect to public transport?
The Precinct is scheduled for completion in 2023 in time for opening of Stage 1 of the proposed Parramatta Light Rail from Carlingford to Westmead.

Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct

What will happen to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo? 

Following the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, the Ultimo site will retain a creative industries presence.
The Government’s plan is to consider options through a masterplan and further Business Case for the Ultimo site, including plans for a design and fashion museum and a new 1500-seat Broadway-style theatre.
The precinct will remain well connected to Darling Harbour, the International Convention Centre and CBD.
The Powerhouse Museum will remain open and continue to exhibit exciting programs until early 2020. Find out what’s on.

The project will be delivered in stages and community and industry consultation will be a part of its delivery.

Learn more about the project and be part of the conversation.

What will the Ultimo Precinct look like?
The Ultimo site will retain a creative industries presence, and is subject to a masterplan.

Why include a design and fashion museum?

Ultimo is already home to a number of creative industry labs, organisations and educational partners. The planned design and fashion museum in Ultimo will build upon this existing creative presence.

For almost 30 years the Powerhouse Museum has celebrated innovation and creativity. Building on that legacy, a planned new design and fashion museum would showcase the MAAS collection celebrating the best of Australian and international design, fashion, creativity and architecture.

Since 1998, MAAS has produced the Sydney Design Festival bringing together industry, educators and the public to explore the future of design practices. International partnerships with institutions such as the V&A in London and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York ensure MAAS can bring the best of design exhibitions to Sydney.

Similarly, the MAAS Centre for Fashion ensures continued access to the most significant collection of fashion in Australia, and initiatives such as the Australian Fashion Fund provide dedicated support for further MAAS commitment to collecting in this area.

A new design and fashion museum would revitalise NSW’s cultural offering with dedicated space for all aspects of design and fashion and highlight Australia’s unique and important contribution.

Why include a theatre?
The inclusion of the theatre responds to the need for more theatre space in Sydney as identified by Infrastructure NSW.

Filling a critical gap in Sydney’s cultural infrastructure, a planned new 1500-seat Broadway-style theatre would provide a state-of-the-art performance space for musicals, live music and screen-based programming. A new theatre would heighten Sydney’s international competitiveness for first-run major touring musicals and theatrical productions. The new theatre would be funded, built and run by a commercial operator, selected through an open competitive process.

In 2018, Destination NSW estimated that a new musical in Sydney would create over $37 million in visitor spend.

Is the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo closed?
No. The Powerhouse Museum continues to operate in Ultimo with world premiere exhibitions and vibrant programming planned until early 2020.

Has the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo site been sold?
No. The Ultimo site has not been sold.

What will happen to the heritage and significant architectural buildings?
The Ultimo site is subject to a masterplan and will ensure an adaptive reuse of the existing buildings and the heritage components of the Ultimo site.

MAAS Collection

How will you ensure the ongoing safe care of the MAAS collection?
Care and preservation of the artefacts that make up the exhibits and collections is of the highest priority. Teams of experts have carefully considered transport and storage plan and all exhibits and collection items will be moved into a specialised secure storage facility in Castle Hill during construction.
Upon completion, the exhibits and collections will be used to create new experiences across all four MAAS venues in Parramatta, Castle Hill and Observatory Hill.
What happens to the MAAS Collection while the Powerhouse Museum closes?
During the construction period, select MAAS collections will embark on a touring exhibition in metro and regional locations across NSW, and nationally, bringing the collections to even greater numbers of people.

Care and preservation of the artefacts that make up the exhibits and collections is of the highest priority.

Teams of expert professionals will develop and execute a carefully considered transport and storage plan and all the exhibits and collection items will be moved into a specialised secure storage facility in Castle Hill during construction of the new museum.

Upon completion, the exhibits and collections will be used to create new experiences across all MAAS venues.

Through the increased exhibition space in the new museum and expanded Museums Discovery Centre, more of the collections will be exhibited to more people.

How will the larger or more fragile items in the MAAS collection be moved?
The MAAS Strategic Collections team of registrars and conservators are already part of the detailed planning to ensure the safety of the MAAS collection during the move. The team has extensive professional experience and a wealth of knowledge of the collection and are best placed to understand the requirements of specific objects.
The relocation of the MAAS collection items from storage in Ultimo will also provide an unprecedented opportunity to conserve, photograph, digitise and better document these collections as part of the moving process. This process will allow more of the collection to be made available online, and accessible to the world.
The MAAS team regularly move many valuable objects including buses, aircraft, steam rollers as well as items from Australia’s significant collection of fashion garments.

Are items from the collection being moved already?
No more than usual. MAAS moves about 30,000 items a year. MAAS displays regularly change for new exhibitions and items travel between venues or to exhibitions in regional NSW and internationally. MAAS proudly supports and often spearheads many festivals and significant programs which span the key disciplines within the applied arts and sciences. It is not unprecedented for collection items to be taken off display to showcase new or never seen works to visitors.

What happens to the MAAS Castle Hill site?

The Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill will be expanded and upgraded to provide new state-of-the-art labs, workshops and facilities to support conservation and collections management, and will be built to exacting international standards for temperature and humidity control.

This includes expanded custom-built storage and collection care spaces (35% increase, adding over 5,000 sqm), providing additional capacity for continued care of the state’s collections.

These upgrades will enhance community access, and offer unique opportunities to learn about museum collections and conservation of Australia’s past.