Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Client

Historic Houses Trust of NSW

Location

Sydney, NSW

Year

1991

Project Description

Included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Francis Greenway’s 1817 Hyde Park Barracks is one of Australia’s most significant buildings. It was reinvented in 1990, following detailed restoration and refitting, as a new museum “of itself”.

Adopting the strictest approach to the conservation and interpretation of its complex layers of heritage fabric, the project was painstakingly developed with the client and heritage authorities, with comprehensive advice from the conservation architects. A continuing process of site investigation, research and briefing covered every aspect of the project, formalising an approach to the fabric and the required new fittings, services and display hardware. The philosophy of each detail was discussed from concept to finished drawing, with the aim of both conserving and communicating the various phases of occupation of the 175-year old Barracks.

The design responds to the differing functions and the degree of intactness of the three levels of the building. The ground floor, which was least intact, has the highest level of new intervention. A focus space at the entry uses the layered removal of later fabric to dramatically illustrate the impact of the successive occupants of the building.

The Greenway Gallery is a special exhibition space of 250 square metres with full conservation-standard air conditioning and lighting, and a flexible system of display panels and showcases, which were purpose designed for the Barracks. The second level reflects the Victorian-period occupancy, and accommodates displays including an Archaeology Room, where a new floating construction of steel and glass contains many of the artefacts found on the site. The third level was reconstructed to its Greenway-era state.

One room contains hammocks with timber support framing, to show the sleeping conditions of the convicts, while other spaces are left relatively empty to let the ghosts of the past speak. The three levels of the building are linked by a delicate steel sculpture that recreates the handrail of a vanished stairway.

Original surfaces were conserved with the surviving finish intact, while non-original surfaces were either repainted in colours determined from scrapes, or left a neutral colour. All new work is clearly distinguishable, and has a deliberately strong architectural character to bring the present and the past together, giving each its own clear identity.

Team

Peter Tonkin, Brian Zulaikha, Bryon Harford, Julie Mackenzie
Photos by Patrick Bingham-Hall and Scott Francis.

Awards

1992 RAIA Francis Greenway Award, Category 4
1992 RAIA National Lachlan Macquarie Award
1992 'Museum of the Year' Award