Sydney Architecture Images- Circular Quay and area

Museum of Contemporary Art Formerly The Maritime Services Board Building 


WH Withers & D Baxter (MSB Design Office) 
Carved panels by Lyndon Dodswell 
1991 Peddle Thorp & Walker (alterations and additions as an art museum) 
New Mordant Wing- Sam Marshall


Circular Quay West, The Rocks 


1940-44 (design) 1947-52 (construction). New Mordant Wing- 2011.


Inter-War Art Deco (a very late but true example)


terracotta cladding


former Office Building, now Gallery
   Above- the Art Deco gallery (former MSB).
  Site- MSB. One of the first large buildings in Australia and the first to have 4 floors. Commissariat Store at West circular Quay. built 1809-12 , it was built by convicts to a design by Lt C Foveaux, the 150ft building had 2ft thick sandstone walls and accessible by boat. it was pulled down in 1930's to make way for Maritime Services Board of 1939. (see HIATUS)
This monumental ‘H’ plan office building was designed to complement the functionalist appearance of Circular Quay Railway Station, which itself was the subject of considerable public controversy during the 1930s. 

The concrete encased steel framed building, which is relatively narrow in cross section, later required additional area on the George Street frontage to create sufficient gallery floor space. The exterior brick walls are faced with Maroubra yellowrock sandstone and detailed with polished Rob Roy granite. 

The foyer is clad with polished Wombeyan marble and edged with green marble quarried near Mudgee in New South Wales. Internally, the mezzanine balcony is decorated with a wave design balustrade in aluminium. Windows are bronze framed and, on the whole, materials have been carefully specified to suit the harbourside location. 

Much of the building’s decoration is contained in bas-relief panels on the central tower and over entrances, similar to the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Commencement of construction was interrupted by World War Two; by the time the building was completed, fashion had changed, and it was considered an Art Deco dinosaur. 

In 1984, after extensive negotiations, it was offered to Sydney University as a museum for the largest bequest of cash and modern art in the university’s history, known as the Power Bequest. 

Information appearing in this section is reproduced from Sydney Architecture, with the kind permission of the author, Graham Jahn, a well known Sydney architect and former City of Sydney Councillor. Sydney Architecture, rrp $35.00, is available from all good book stores or from the publisher, Watermark Press, Telephone: 02 9818 5677. 
Facelift imminent for Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art- the Mordant Wing
4 May

Editor- a bit of a shocker- Mondrian box 10 years after it was fashionable elsewhere. However, it’s great that the MCA will finally get some decent space. I hope that includes a re-organisation of the dismal circulation spaces within the current MCA.

Facelift imminent for Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art- the Mordant Wing
Centralmag 04 May 10

The redevelopment of the Museum of Contemporary Art will begin in June this year.

The announcement was made by The Premier of NSW Kristina Keneally, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, and MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor at the Museum this morning.

The redevelopment, that is expected to be completed in early 2012, will deliver a world class art and education institution and will strengthen the MCA’s position as a locally loved and internationally respected Museum.

MCA – 2009 Building Fly Through from MCA Sydney Australia on Vimeo.

The extension to the north of the existing MCA building will be appropriately named the Mordant Wing in recognition of the philanthropic support of the Mordant family.

The Mordant Wing will provide a Centre for Creative Learning of national significance, housing workshop spaces for schools and after-school youth programs.

There will be new facilities for the Museum’s renowned Bella program for young people with special needs, a digital classroom, multi-media room, library and resource room and a lecture theatre/new media events space.

In addition, the extension will house additional Gallery space.

The development will also provide revamped and extended gallery spaces and a new fully accessible entrance.

It will also expand commercial spaces to provide more ongoing revenue and create a sustainable business model, which will assist the MCA in continuing to offer free entry



Art of giving: $15m single donation boosts MCA plan

A “breathtaking” $15 million donation from a single Sydney family will partially fund a $53 million redevelopment of the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay.

The unprecedented commitment will come from Simon Mordant, MCA Foundation head and joint chief executive of investment bank Greenhill Caliburn Partners, and Mordant’s wife, Catriona.

Mordant recently pocketed $65 million through the sale of Caliburn to US firm Greenhil & Co, the Australian Financial Review reported last month.

The Mordants’ gift will be met by a joint $26 million commitment from the federal and NSW governments, as well as a $1 million donation from the City of Sydney and $7.45 million from other private donors, according to a statement on the MCA’s website.

The new wing, to be named the Mordant Wing, will extend the size of the MCA by roughly two thirds.

Museum director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor said it would house a new National Centre for Creative Learning, more gallery space and extra commercial space to generate revenue.

“The importance of this contribution to our community, made possible by the enthusiasm and commitment of this unique funding partnership, is truly breathtaking,” Ms Macgregor said.

The construction project, designed by Sam Marshall in partnership with the NSW Government Architect, will start in June and is expected to be completed in early 2012.



MCA unveils $50m makeover plan
Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Wed Dec 10, 2008, ABC

Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is planning a $50 million overhaul that would double its size with a modern new wing opposite the Opera House.

The wing, to be built on top of a car park at Circular Quay, will look like a pile of white, brown, grey and tinted glass boxes connected to the existing art deco building.

But the MCA still needs $22 million for the plan and has been lobbying the Federal Government to plug the shortfall.

The new building, designed by award-winning Sydney architect Sam Marshall, will contain a new arcade-like entrance linking Circular Quay with George Street at The Rocks.

It will also house a National Centre for Creative Learning and two new galleries containing more of the MCA’s permanent collection.

Mr Marshall says he plucked the colours of the blocks from the MCA’s surrounds and from local Indigenous culture.

MCA director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor says local residents and businesses have supported the project, but she expects it to spark debate.

“I think we should debate or discuss architecture of all kinds,” she said. “We really look forward to the debate and it will be interesting, as we move forward, to get people’s reactions.”

Ms Macgregor also wants to renovate the MCA’s current home, which was built for the Maritime Service Board. She says many people do not realise it houses contemporary art.

“Many times, we’ve had visitors walk right past, not realising the amazing experiences they’re missing out on inside,” she said.

“The building is hardly welcoming. The access is totally inadequate for people using wheelchairs, never mind families with children in strollers.

“The circulation is confusing. Is the main entrance the Quay side or George Street? Can you find the George Street entrance among the retail?

“How do you find the lifts? Do you go up or down to get to the galleries? The mezzanine can only be reached by the goods lift or the stairs.”

The museum is also planning to redevelop the rooftop overlooking the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, with a new cafe and and a sculpture terrace displaying annually commissioned works.

Cash plea

The New South Wales Government has injected $10 million into the plan, while the City of Sydney Council has pledged $1 million and the private sector has donated $17 million.

Ms Macgregor says federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett has been receptive in discussions about funding.

She says the financial crisis should not stop the Federal Government and philanthropists from contributing money.

“Who knows, with the downturn?” she said.

“[It's] a development that can not only generate jobs during its construction but is clearly going to drive traffic to The Rocks, hopefully get people spending money and of course, it will make waves internationally too.

“So we would like to make a very strong economic argument for support for this development.”

Ms Macgregor hopes the project will re-invigorate the museum and surrounding area at The Rocks.

“At the moment, in the existing building, we’re in a bit of a logjam, where income is static and costs are rising.

“That’s going to squeeze us to the point where it’s going to be very difficult to continue the ambition of our current exhibition programs.

“So we need to do something that generates more excitement, attracts more people, attracts more donors, attracts more sponsors and generates income.”

A spokesman for Mr Garrett says the Government is considering the plea for cash as part of its Budget process.

The museum hopes to complete the redevelopment by the March 2011 state election, but it says work will not begin until it has received $50 million.


Link- MCA page-


Re-opening of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art
by Michael Young

After being closed for several months, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) re-opened to the public on March 29, wrapping up 18 months of major construction work that has seen AUD 53 million spent on refurbishing the old building and creating the attached Mordant Wing, fronting the iconic Circular Quay.

On the first day of the MCA’s public re-opening, 3,450 people flocked to the museum to see Sydney architect Sam Marshall’s building and the three renovated floors of gallery space in the old 1950s Art Deco-inspired building. The expanded MCA allows for the first time dedicated and permanent space to be given to exhibiting the museum’s collection of contemporary Australian art, currently called “Volume One: MCA Collection.” On the upper floor, which until now had only been accessible via a single antiquated lift, the opening is also celebrated with “Marking time,” an exhibition featuring 11 international artists exploring how art can depict time.

However, visitors expecting radical changes to the old gallery spaces will be sadly disappointed. The internal structure of the old building, which was not intended as an art gallery but as offices for the Maritime Services Board, dictate that the galleries remain corridor-like, with oppressively low ceilings except for two specially designed ”white cube” spaces where ceilings soar and art works can breathe. Most notable from “Marking Time” were Lindy Lee’s Buddhist-inspired scrolls, which hang on five-meter-high walls.

The new wing is named after Sydney businessman and philanthropist, Simon Mordant, whose AUD 15 million gift to the museum last year kick-started fund raising that had stalled in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Talking to ArtAsiaPacific, Mordant, who is also chairman of the MCA, said excitedly of the building on the first day, “It’s totally gobsmacking and supercharged,” and that being inside the finished space “gave him goose bumps.”

Forty percent of Marshall’s blocky, cubist new wing is given over to the National Centre for Creative Learning with digital, multimedia studios and practical spaces for educational activities. The allocation fulfills director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor’s commitment to create a first class educational facility that will communicate contemporary art to the state’s children. There are bright primary colored rooms pierced with windows giving spectacular views of Circular Quay.

Work on the new and refurbished building has created 4,500 square meters of additional space overall and has increased gallery space by 26 percent.

Early on in the public opening day, Marshall himself had crept surreptitiously inside and was eagerly people-watching, taking candid photographs to assess how groups circulated. “It is so nice to see the building full of people and art,” he told AAP, while also running his feet lovingly over the concrete floors, “They are so velvety,” he said. Marshall’s reputation is very much built on the use of this brutalist medium.

Mordant Wing Sculpture Terrace overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Off-centered and set within the Mordant Wing, the new entrance to the MCA is a triumph of spatial awareness that contrasts with the heavy cubist feel in the rest of the building. The portico pushes through from George Street and descends wide concrete stairs to Circular Quay and a new external space eponymously called the MCA Square, which will accommodate commissioned installations—although the first such work, by Australian artist Brook Andrew, has been delayed. A huge wall painting by Sydney based artist, Helen Eager, lines the staircase and either greets arriving visitors or farewells them, depending on where they enter.

On the ground floor is a large cube-shaped gallery, currently showing the 24-hour video The Clock (2010), by the Swiss-American Christian Marclay, which seamlessly pieces together movie clips of various clocks, watches and other temporal references depicting passing minutes that unfolds across a 24-hour period in real time. Australian artist, Stuart Ringholt, who was in the adjacent upstairs galleries researching the collection for an adults only nude tour he will lead as part of the “Local Positioning Systems” performance series, said the work is: “A masterpiece. And I don’t say that often.”

Circulation within the new wing leads inevitably upwards to the MCA Café and Sculpture Terrace on Level 4, where Australian artist, Hany Armanious’ Fountain (2012), sits before million dollar views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The Sculpture Terrace will be home to the MCA Sculpture Series, an annual commission for new site-specific installations. Higher still, and set on the roof area of the old building, will be a function area which Macgregor hopes will become an important revenue earner, attracting both weddings and corporate functions. 


Museum of Contemporary Art - official web site