Chau Chak Wing Museum

University of Sydney

For over 150 years the University of Sydney’s collections have inspired and informed students, researchers, staff and the public by providing bridges to distant places, alternative vistas, and the natural world.
The Chau Chak Wing Museum has, for the first time, brought three of the University’s most significant cultural, scientific and art collections together, in a new public museum and teaching facility that has transformed access to these unique resources.

Located directly opposite the Great Hall, the University’s main ceremonial hall and the oldest university building in Australia, this prominent location reinforces the museum’s role as a public building within the campus, and an important meeting place for city and campus life.
Above ground, the scale and dimension of the building mirrors the Fisher Library to the south, transforming University Avenue into a gateway from this important approach. This scale relationship and the relatively modest footprint between the existing significant trees required a multi-level design, with much of the building located below ground.

A strongly horizontal floating concrete box, it sits nestled among mature trees, turning a single-storey face towards the [university] quadrangle building but at a respectful distance… The rest of the museum digs into the slope to house the staggering collections in a series of airy and light-filled interior terraces.

Elizabeth Farrelly,
Sydney Morning Herald

The site falls from west to east and is flanked on both sides by stands of mature trees.
The public entrance from University Place is axially aligned with the Great Hall.

A large off-form concrete box, supported by large sandstone-coloured precast concrete blocks, creates a rich spatial experience with compression at entry, before opening to the central, sky-lit atrium that links all public levels.

Views to Victoria Park and the city open out from the entry, and remain visible from all circulation spaces to aid visitor orientation and wayfinding.

JPW listened to us and asked insightful questions as we began our creative journey with them. The result is a contemporary architectural delight in a sensitive heritage precinct: fulfilling all the needs of our functional brief for a university museum of the 21st century and so much more.

David Ellis, Director,
Chau Chak Wing Museum

The cantilever of the concrete box protects east-facing glazed facades against direct light during the day, and creates a sheltered space for the café below. The box contains a large, flexible exhibition gallery and other spaces that require only limited window openings, and efficiently combines structure and cladding.

It is a building that has incredible lightness and a sense of calm reflection. Through it, the university has tripled the area available to display its diverse collections.

Gina Fairley, Arts Hub

Across four levels, 8 flexible gallery spaces provide diverse curatorial opportunities whilst study rooms for object-based learning open up through double-sided showcases.

At the lowest public level a courtyard provides breakout space, with seating steps for outdoor classes.

This project has completely transformed the way in which the University operates, and sees a cultural shift in the centre of gravity towards the Quadrangle precinct.
The design of the object-based learning studios, visible from gallery spaces, highlights the strong linkage between public spaces and education.

Scott Biggs,
Director Infrastructure Delivery
University Infrastructure,
University of Sydney

The lowest level contains collection storage, exhibition workshops, quarantine and loading facilities. All are designed to international standards to enable the museum to secure loans from collaborating institutions and share their own collections with others.

As a new public building within the campus of Australia’s oldest university, the Chau Chak Wing Museum demonstrates the important role contemporary universities and museums play in sharing and growing knowledge, and expanding understanding in our interdisciplinary world.