Striking storage facility custom-designed to house Sydney-based philanthropist's art collection

Designed to house Judith Neilson's significant art collection, the purpose-built ‘state of the art' structure provides 10,000m2 of space with the functionality and flexibility to store and display artwork and host private events.

Split over two levels; the building is a striking concrete and steel structure, featuring a Great Hall that is 90m long by 20m wide. The room soars in height from 8m at the lower end to 30m at the upper end and is used for displaying, evaluating and curating artwork.

Located to the north of the site is the other standout feature of the building - a beautifully designed and crafted steel and bowstring truss bridge that links both sides of the Great Hall.

The steel framing of the Great Hall is innovative in its aesthetics, lack of cross-bracing and its ability to intelligently resolve many of the issues faced by art storage facilities, namely: water ingress, temperature control, service distribution and the requirement for natural light while restricting the ingress of UV radiation.

The design provides an innovative structural solution to omit the need for cross-bracing by portalising the building in the cross-wind direction while using the buildings' shape in the long direction to strut the loads back down through the building sloping steel roof before anchoring them back into the concrete for plate.

With uniform truss bays changing only in height, the structure was rationalised to maintain the architectural intent of clean lines and aesthetic excellence. The roof pitch was chosen to satisfy architectural requirements while also matching the horizontal truss depth and ceiling joist locations. Carefully adjusting the geometry ensured ceiling joists could be utilised to brace the bottom chords of the trusses, omitting the requirement for inclined fly-bracing.

The clarity was also maintained in the detailing of connections to create minimal visual impact through the translucent polycarbonate and standardise them across the structure for more efficient fabrication and installation. This was particularly challenging due to the complex geometry resulting from the frame layout and the sloping roof. Our structural engineers used IDEA StatiCa Finite Element software to resolve the complex geometry and high forces within the structure into optimised connections with minimal material redundancy.

The crafted steel bowstring truss bridge allowed minimal use of materials by positioning them only where required - which was achieved by using Ronstan high-strength stainless steel tension rods and compression struts. These are attached to a mild steel deck comprising back to back steel angles and steel universal column sections supporting brushed and etched stainless steel decking plates. Cantilevering off the deck is a frameless glass balustrade with bespoke stainless-steel handrails. Isolation of mild to stainless steel was provided throughout.

The main Façade works from TTW were custom-designed glazed metal facades and super slim frames with large glass panels.

From a sustainable perspective, the use of steel was a vital project requirement for TTW. While concrete has a high embodied energy content, Australian steel has a much lower environmental footprint. TTW and Tzannes's design sought to limit the building's environmental footprint by reducing material, artificial lighting and energy requirements wherever possible. With a 100-year design life, the building can be adaptively reused should it ever cease functioning as a warehouse.

Client: Judith Neilson

Architect: Tzannes

Builder: Infinity Constructions Group

Completion: 2018

Sector: Art & Culture

Services: Structural, Facade


  • 2018:

Australian Steel Institute – Excellence Award for Large Projects

  • 2019:

IDEA: Public Space Overall Winner

AIA: Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture

AIA: National Architecture Award for Interior Architecture

NSW MBA: Award for Industrial Buildings $25M+

AIA-NSW: Sir Arthur G. Stephenson Award for Commercial Architecture

AIA-NSW: Award for Interior Architecture

Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award – Museums and Cultural Buildings