Shepparton Art Museum

Denton Corker Marshall

The design of Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) is characterised by simplicity and clarity, with compelling imagery creating a landmark cultural destination for Shepparton. The scheme was won in a limited competition. It includes an art museum, Visitors’ Information Centre, Kaiela Arts Aboriginal community arts centre and 120 person event space able to operate out of hours for conferences, weddings and social occasions, all within a 5,000 square metre cubic form.
SAM is located on the approach to the town centre, within a popular park within the flat Goulbourn River Plain.

A restricted ground floor, necessary due to a floodway across the site, was turned into a design opportunity – a small footprint was extruded vertically over five levels to generate the distinctive small-and-tall art museum. The design is ingeniously integrated into the park via a dramatic “Art Hill”, which screens all building services, back-of-house and loading dock under the expanded parkland. The Art Hill has the advantage of effectively creating an upper ground level enabling the museum cafe to enjoy an elevated outlook while being directly connected to, and accessible from, the park.

Four different galleries, totalling 800 square metres, are accommodated. Two of the galleries are designed to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers) Class AA standard to be able to accommodate exhibitions on loan from premium museums and galleries. The façades of SAM comprise four thin floating L-shaped plates suspended in the landscape. They group together, at different heights and contrasting materiality, to form a composition at a scale comparable to the river red gums. By subverting the expression of built form into a composition of abstract sculptural elements, scale becomes indeterminate.

SAM is a building whose physical form is surrendered to a shifting play of colour and patina that changes with the weather and time of day. It is simultaneously powerful and recessive. SAM is a distinctive small-and-tall art museum: a space of contrasts, reflection and discovery, and full of delight.


Furniture: Jardan, Didier, James Richardson Furniture, Les Sinclair Design Studio. Lighting: iGuzzini.


Photography: John Gollings (Image 1), Tim Griffith (Image 2-4).