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Kew Housemuseum gets a sister gallery

An artist’s impression of the gallery to be built beside the Lyon Housemuseum in Cotham Road, Kew. Photo: SuppliedThe Lyon Housemuseum in Cotham Road, Kew, (corner Florence Street) established a new architectural typology when it opened its doors in 2009.
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Purposely built as a house museum, rather than a house converted into a museum, the black-clad zinc landmark attracts a local and international audience for ‘s most eminent collection of n contemporary art.

The brainchild of architect Corbett Lyon, founding director of Lyons Architects, the Housemuseum will be joined by a “sibling” museum directly next door.

Identical in land size to the Housemuseum, approximately 1500 square metres, the new museum, the Housemuseum Galleries, which will be public (rather than the existing private and residential one), had its starting point with the Gesù Nuovo, a Renaissance church in Naples.

While the corbel church facade made an impression on Lyon, he was keen to include the “DNA” of the Housemuseum next door, which he also designed.

The corbelled bluestone facades of the new museum, expected to open in mid-2018, spells out the name of the museum, just as the former museum spells out the names of the streets on its corbelled-brick fence (one reading Cotham, the other Florence).

“I’m particularly interested in exploring traits of buildings. These two museums obviously read as a pair. They’re not twins, but more viewed as siblings from the same family,” says Lyon, pointing out the distinctive pitched roof lines of both buildings.

While the 12,000 corbelled bluestone bricks, sourced from Port Fairy, create a large sculptural form in their own right, the new museum includes a generous bluestone forecourt that has built-in seating.

And unlike its neighbour, with a high front fence, the Housemuseum Galleries features an art wall, visible through its glazed front entry.

“This art wall will continually evolve,” says Lyon. “It might take the form of painting on the entry wall, or a large piece of sculpture, sourced locally or from overseas [the Housemuseum next door features only n art, including the largest collection of works by the late Howard Arkley].

“I wanted to create a public gesture to the street, as well as animating the streetscape,” says Lyon, who engaged artist Reko Rennie to create a painted surface across the entire new site that will eventually disappear, with the exception of a small portion, as the new museum slowly takes shape (not dissimilar to discovering an ancient floor in a Renaissance building even after it has been standing for centuries).

With a move towards larger contemporary artworks worldwide, including sculpture, video art and paintings, Lyon was keen to create fewer, but larger, spaces.

Pivotal to the design is the central gallery, with dramatic 5.5-metre-high ceilings surrounded by four smaller gallery spaces, each one with different ceiling heights, from three to seven metres.

“As you move around the galleries, you get a different experience with the changing volumes,” says Lyon.

As well as gallery spaces, the new museum will include a cafe and amenities, overlooking a sculpture court. There also is an office above one of the galleries and a lift that transports art from the basement.

The two museums obviously share a distinctive signature as Lyon designed both.

However, the Housemuseum, unlike this new public museum, was designed as both a house and museum, with smaller and more idiosyncratic rooms.

In contrast, the new Housemuseum Galleries is more akin to the traditional gallery. Lyon says: “I’m very excited about having the pair sitting side by side. Together they will create a new cultural precinct in Melbourne.”

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