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National Museum of Australia




Client: Commonwealth of Australia
Completion: 2001
Construction Value: $152M

2001 RAIA (ACT Chapter)
Award of Merit

2001 Blueprint International Architecture Award
Best Public Building




'Here at last is a building that combines utility with beauty and inventiveness. It sits on the Acton Peninsula like an inviting playground for the mind and the memory … It has an overall unity, whose core is the giant welcoming hall. It’s very much a metaphor for Australia, really.'

Joseph Quigley
Visitor at the National Museum of Australia


The National Museum of Australia has been sited at the end of the Acton Peninsula to create a new waterfront condition for Canberra. At the heart of the facility is the Garden of Australian Dreams providing a protected outdoor courtyard.

The National Museum of Australia combines contemporary exhibition techniques with new media technologies such as a high definition digital theatre. The exhibition spaces accommodate the NMA permanent collections, the Gallery of First Australians as well as temporary collections from other institutions.

The approach to the design of the interior spaces moves away from the ‘black box’ and instead allows some controlled natural daylight into the exhibition spaces. The relationship between the circulation and narrative of the Museum is an important part of the experience reinforced by visual connections to outside by carefully located windows ‘punched’ through the facade.

Circulation through the Museum has been planned as a circuit through the entry into the Main Hall, on to the exhibition and gallery spaces through the Garden of Australian Dreams and back to the Main Hall with views to the Garden of Australian Dreams along the way.

The Main Hall provides access to all the principal public areas of the Museum complex while creating an extraordinary spatial and orientation experience for the visitor.

The Garden of the Australian Dreams itself is an extraordinary experience in its own right, but it is also intricately integrated into the circulation and exhibition experience of the Museum.