ACMI Renewal

  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Place Design

Designed By:

  • BKK Architects
  • Razorfish

Commissioned By:


Designed In:


ACMI in Federation Square in Melbourne is the world’s largest museum dedicated to celebrating screen culture and the moving image. Its redevelopment represents a quantum leap forward for this museum typology, but also for all types of experience design and digital culture; it questions the confines of the physical museum itself.

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Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
Image: Shannon McGrath
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  • The museum occupied a building which was unfit for purpose, it also never envisaged the method of its evolution or anticipated the success of the institution. Beyond this other significant challenges ACMI faced were: - The disconnected nature of the spaces set over multiple levels, - A lack of legibility due in part to poor visual connectivity, - Sharing the building with multiple tenancies which further lead to an absence of identity, - And; a clear point of entry created by multiple entrances. As a result, visitors often went to one component of ACMI but not others, which limited the breadth of their experience.

  • The challenges solutions outlined above were: - Drive a generous timber stair through the middle of the building to create a clear line of sight and better connectivity and legibility between ACMI's two entrances - Impart an architecture on the building which speaks to ACMI's identity; new insertions can be clearly read while celebrating the existing, - Adjust the location of spaces to make them more visible, readable and accessible, - Increase the footprint of the Permanent Gallery and create an additional temporary gallery, - Bring museum content to every level; the Federation Square Foyer on the first floor provides a hybrid gallery/testing/dwell space.

  • Social - The Renewal is a gesture of civic generosity; the public is invited in to use the museum as a 'third space' (see below), Commercial - The Renewal has been designed to meet ACMI's ambitious target of more than 2m visitors annually and to cross-pollinate offerings for improved commercial outcomes. Environmental - The Renewal is an exemplar of adaptive reuse; ACMI refurbished their Federation Square home rather than relocate to a purpose-built facility, thus retaining embodied energy through reuse of the building shell. During demolition items were salvaged where possible and the builder committed to recycling around 70% of the demolition material.

  • The ACMI renewal is a world-first adaptation of a museum into a multi-layered physical and virtual platform that can expand over time. Connect the City and Museum: Bring the museum into the City through the reinstatement and reinforcement of the original (internal) laneway design. Connecting Multiple levels and programs: Disconnected spaces were united and legibility improved through carving out the interior, and then the major insertion of the timber Living Stair. Strengthen Identity: Create a new identity for ACMI and make it distinct from Fed Square whilst respecting the original heritage architecture. Animate the lightwell: Through amplification of the lightwell the central spine was strengthened; becoming a beacon at night and also allowed light (the fundamental component of the moving image) to fill and animate the space. Dwell Spaces: Spaces, such as the Living Stair & Urban Lounge, were created to pause, relax, hang out; a 'third space' for the city and museum. Editing as a process: The process was as much subtractive as additive; removing layers or repositioning elements of redundant space to reveal and amplify the best qualities of the original design. Enhanced Learning: spaces created to support doubling of student numbers across ACMI's essential and popular teaching programs.