The Powerhouse Museum opened on March 10, 1988. The challenging design by NSW Government Architect J Thompson and Design Architect Lionel Glendenning for the design of the Powerhouse Museum converting the shell of an industrial building into one of the world’s most up-to-date museums was deservedly given the 1988 Sulman award for architectural merit.
In 1997 the National Trust listed the former Ultimo Depot Tramshed on the National Trust Register. On 27th February, 2015 the NSW Premier the Hon Mike Baird announced that Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum would be moved to Parramatta, in the city’s west, if the Coalition Government were re-elected. A site in Parramatta had not been chosen and the existing site at Ultimo would be sold to developers. It appears that Mr Baird considered that his government’s re-election would be a mandate for the sale and move rather than traditional public consultation processes.
A NSW Parliament Upper House Inquiry has revealed that the construction of a new building at the Parramatta site proposed for the Museum move would impact on two historic properties from the late 1800s – Willow Vale and St. Georges Terrace, listed on the National Trust Register in 1985 and 1984.
- The Trust strongly opposes the sale by the NSW Government of the Powerhouse Museum for redevelopment and would also strongly oppose any demolition of the existing historic structure, the purpose built 1988 extension and extant components that demonstrate the Powerhouse’s original use.
- The Trust supports the establishment of a Parramatta Branch of the museum with its own distinctive function and style but strongly opposes the closure of the Powerhouse Museum.
- Whereas the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum concentrates on technology, a Parramatta Museum could feature the decorative arts and design collection along the lines of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London. Britain’s Natural History Museum began as an annex of the British Museum but has now forged its own identity.
- The National Trust strongly opposes the demolition of Willow Grove or St Georges Terrace at Parramatta, or any adverse impacts on these historic properties.
The Trust will promote its views on the Powerhouse Museum in the media and argue that proper public consultation has not been undertaken on this major proposal for a public museum icon.