Name: White Rabbit Gallery
Client: White Rabbit Foundation
Architects: Smart Design Studio.
Location: Chippendale, Sydney, Australia
Date of Construction: 2008
Structural Engineers: Partridge Partners
Services Engineers: ITC Group
Site Project Manager: Northcroft
Planner: Urbis JHD
Heritage: Design 5
BCA/PCA: Dix Gardener
Lighting: Architectural Lighting Design
‘ Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’ -Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
Within the realms of the world of contemporary art, Chinese artists have been contributing to the scenario with some of the most exciting, vibrant and challenging works. Reflecting a society which embodies a confluence between deep tradition and arising contemporariness, the work of artists portrays art that has grown out of centuries old forms, and yet represents the shift in the Chinese society, such as the political ideals, economic norms and varying cultural identities.
The White Gallery, therefore, has been designed as a tailored gallery for an extensive and prized collection of contemporary Chinese Art, of a permanent and private nature. The collection is majorly ascribed to some of the most prominent artists creating contemporary Chinese Art, along with exhibitions of works created by younger and emerging artists from the same sphere, with the intent of introducing visitors to the art and allowing them to discover, as they meander through.
The design of the project was embarked upon by means of transforming an existing brick warehouse, of a large size and freestanding by nature along with an additional rooftop level. The building itself is located in Chippendale, a small inner-city suburb of Sydney. In fact, the White Rabbit Gallery is a contributor towards the gradual renown of Chippendale as a key creative art district of Sydney. The gallery has been designed so, within the existing fabric, to accommodate a total of four floor levels dedicated towards the gallery, a respite in the form of a tea house as well as a digital media theatre, enhancing the art display quotient, along with the necessary reception areas, staff car parking and a featurette in the form of an artist-in-residence studio.
Chippendale is situated near Sydney’s Chinatown and Central Railway Station. The suburb is characterised by the quintessential turn-of-the-century brick warehouses. The current scenario is such that these have been transitioning into spaces for artist’s studios as well as galleries and workplaces for industries involved in creative endeavours. Essentially, it is an area which is currently undergoing a large scale urban redevelopment. Adjacent to the site of the gallery is what was formerly the Carlton United Brewery, which is due to being planned for one of the largest urban redevelopment across Sydney. Therefore, the significance of the White Rabbit Gallery and its contribution toward culture with regard to the CUB development and the regeneration of the city cannot be undermined.
The external fabric of the building depicts raw and textured brick, emblematic of an industrial warehouse. The design incorporates this by complimenting it with alterations of a modern form and a crisp nature. The designers have created an invigorating gallery experience and a robust backdrop for the striking collection of artwork. Truly, it is the neutrality depicted by its surroundings that leads to the enhancement of the beauty of the fostered artwork, which in turn symbiotically augments the setting.
The gallery comprises of various forms of artwork and one of the emphatic features is a sculpture hall. It has been heightened to a length of three storeys and has been created for the display of specific sculptural works which form a part of the collection and they bring about a histrionic play of natural light into the deepest portions of the building, creating an ardently striking scenario.
When the building served as a warehouse, the fenestrations were defined by archetypal aluminium windows. These have been replaced by sculptural window boxes, where incorporated fluorescent lighting enhances them, creating an interesting play of light. These act as additional contemporary installation elements and the white colour causes sunlight to diffuse through the skin of the building. The vision is such that is lights up the scenario and gives it a serene atmosphere, the ideal mood to indulge in viewing the striking works of art against the tranquil background.
The adaptive reuse of this warehouse into a place that celebrates art and invites people to indulge in cultural growth exemplifies the urban redevelopment scenario. The intrinsic idea is that the usability of the building might have perished for one function, but can be enhanced with apt intervention. Herein, it highlights and rejoices in another function, which in itself is an ideal that nurtures the soul. The complete picture is made resplendent with the addition of new, flat white roof sails over the existing parapet of the building, which cap the original structure and embellish the presence of this special and rejuvenated place with a new cultural identity, within the quaint inner-city of Sydney.
Smart Design Studio, in contradiction with the notion, ‘Form follows Function’, believes in ‘Form Having Function’. While their designs uphold the ideal of practicability, they do not shy from experimenting, and bringing about uniqueness by implementing challenging ideals in their designs.
The gallery is an example of how they modulate and transform existing spaces, and bring about glorious spatiality in the previous rigid confines of the warehouse, true to their intent and design ideals.
– Devashree Vyas ,Volume Zero