There’s no one-and-done solution to the specter of climate change. Some take a scientific approach, finding renewable sources of clean energy to change the way we live and function. Others seek to educate and inspire, or forewarn. 

Bundanon, a newly unveiled art destination in Shoalhaven, southeastern Australia, falls into the latter category: a sprawling underground museum designed to survive the wiles of the changing climate, alongside a creative learning centre housed in a flood-proof 160-metre-long bridge.

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The museum will be unveiled on January 29 for its inaugural exhibition From impulse to action, featuring – among other works – Arthur Boyd’s oeuvres, along with a slew of works by new artists. After all, it was Arthur Boyd who gifted the 1000 ha estate to Australia, along with all its buildings and his collection of more than 2000 artworks.  

Before this, the property has long been used as a centre for education and exploration of art, science and nature, with a well-established residency programme for writers, musicians and performers alike. Now, the soon-to-be unveiled museum and bridge herald a new age for the estate, which also has a rich history with indigenous cultures. The project was a collaboration between Kerstin Thompson Architects (who designed the museum), landscape architects Wraight Associates with Craig Burton and sustainable design engineers Atelier 10.

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The museum will not only present a year-round programme featuring exhibitions of modern, contemporary and First Nations art, but also houses an extensive collection within an on-site storage facility. And by being built into the hillside itself, also reaps the benefits of thermal stability and protection from the elements thanks to several tons of dirt overhead.

The bridge itself is just as sturdy – built to allow any floodwaters to flow around its supports, thereby keeping the learning centre, accommodations for up to 64 guests and dining facilities within safe (while offering a spectacular view of the Shoalhaven River. It’s also a reflection of the estate’s ambitions for net zero emissions – the bridge combines solar power with passive temperature management, rainwater collection and black water treatment. They’ve also relied on locally-sourced materials during construction, and a commitment towards reduction in use of fossil fuels.

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Even if you’re an outsider to the Australian art scene or its rich cultural history, there’s something to be said about the allure of architecture that’s at once sustainable and practical. Bundanon’s new museum is both, while also marking a turning point in the historical estate.

Photos by Zan Wimberley.

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