Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta International Design Competition

Dianna Snape


The new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta in Sydney’s newly-designated ‘Central River City’ will be a distinctive architectural statement and is intended to become a global landmark.

Situated in one of the fastest-growing and most diverse regions of Australia, the museum will be the centrepiece of a 24-hour arts and cultural precinct on the banks of the Parramatta River.

The new museum will showcase the internationally-significant MAAS collection, which is focused on excellence and innovation in applied arts and sciences. 

The Powerhouse Precinct, which includes 18,000 sqm of purpose-built exhibition spaces, represents a major investment by the New South Wales (NSW) Government, with the base construction budget set at AUD $400M.

The initiative is intended to remake Parramatta’s relationship with the river as well as generating jobs and economic opportunities, Parramatta being a key element of the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan – the Central River City in their proposed A Metropolis of Three Cities’.

The MAAS collection, named after the original nineteenth-century Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, is currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD).

The new Powerhouse will deliver Australia’s first dedicated learning space devoted to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). And centre stage will be a selection of the collection’s over 500,000 objects, applied to tell stories, engage communities and encourage lifelong learning. A new curatorial strategy will focus on integrated and immersive programs that promote interaction and inspire and connect people of all ages and backgrounds.

This two-stage open competition – endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects – warmly welcomed both Australian and international teams of designers. It encouraged creative and intellectual collaborations between established and emerging talent.

The competition sought an outstanding, world-class team with exceptional skills in design and placemaking for this new cultural landmark.

At the first stage, competitors were asked to read the Search Statement, fill out the online form and upload documents detailing their company information, proposed team composition, relevant experience, and initial response to the brief. The first stage closed on Monday 18 March 2019.

The first stage of the competition attracted 74 teams from 20 countries. The submissions were reviewed by the shortlisting panel and six teams were selected to progress to stage two of the competition.

These teams were asked to create concept designs for the Powerhouse Precinct, an received an honorarium of AUD $150,000 for their design work at the conclusion of the competition.

The competition jury met in November 2019 to interview the shortlist and selected the team led by Moreau Kusunoki and Genton as the winner.