Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

Revealed: the buried Powerhouse museum report that could have stopped $500m redevelopment

Revealed: the buried Powerhouse museum report that could have stopped $500m redevelopment


Revealed: the buried Powerhouse museum report that could have stopped $500m redevelopment

A heritage architect hired by the previous New South Wales government to consult on major redevelopments at Sydney's Powerhouse museum is alleging that his research was buried. He alleges this was because it would have scuppered controversial plans to demolish much of the beloved Sydney institution.

Alan Croker, who has previously consulted on architectural landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, told Guardian Australia his company, Design 5, drafted a conservation management plan (CMP)for the heritage significance of the Ultimo site in October 2021.

However, his recommendation that the entire site be heritage listed threatened $500m plans to turn the Powerhouse into a commercially-oriented fashion and design hub.

The final report from a second company was published under then premier Dominic Perrottet in mid-2022. It meant the government could demolish most or all of what was constructed at the Powerhouse in the 1980s, when the former power station was converted into Australia's largest science and technology museum.

The state government first announced in 2015 that the museum would be relocated to a new $915m facility in Parramatta and the Ultimo site redeveloped. Two years later, after considerable public outcry, the plan was dropped. But a year later it was readopted by the Berejiklian government. In February this year the beloved institution dropped "museum" from its name altogether.

Proposed development plans and artists' impressions of the Ultimo redevelopment show that a third of the existing museum buildings could be demolished and the remaining interiors potentially gutted, despite a warning from the National Trust that the plans are "intrusive and destructive" to the precinct's heritage.

Croker believes his CMP, a draft of which was handed to the government in April 2022, ended up "buried somewhere" because its findings were "not what the powers that be wanted to know".

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