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Powerhouse Unveils New Architecture Commission

Modular installation situated outdoors with a figure standing in an opening on the right side of the structure. There is a brick wall in the background and two large rocks in front of the structure.March 24, 2022

Cadeau by Curious Practice. Image by Zan Wimberley
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The Powerhouse has unveiled a new large-scale public installation as part of the Powerhouse Architecture Commission series. Now in its third year, the Commission provides emerging Australian architects with an opportunity to design and build innovative projects responding to the museum site and community. The 2022 commission, Cadeau is a moveable, modular installation designed by Newcastle-based studio Curious Practice, founded by University of Newcastle graduates Warren Haasnoot and Greg Lee.

Created in collaboration with design and engineering firm Arup and Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH), Cadeau is constructed with American Oak by ASH and finished with a black Rubio Woodcream. The US hardwood forest resource is vast and has been well managed for generations. American Oak by ASH is processed in Victoria, handpicked by region and colour, graded and packed to meet Australian standards. Trees, and consequently timber products, are nature’s carbon stores. When harvested, the carbon sequestered in the timber remains. Timber is also uniquely renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Utilising sustainably and responsibly harvested timber reduces fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions.

“The Powerhouse Architecture Commission was launched in 2018 to provide a platform for emerging architects embarking on their practice to present innovative and experimental projects. Cadeau follows the success of previous commissions, Four Periscopes by TRIAS and Agora by Penhale & Winter in reinterpreting the urban context of Powerhouse Ultimo,” said Powerhouse Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah.

Cadeau is not a ‘stand-alone’ building or singular gesture. The design concept draws upon the idea of cross-pollination, which enables different genetic species to symbiotically exist and gain mutual benefit, improving their resistance to disease and changes in the environment. The architects responded to the commission brief with a modular, movable pavilion that can be enjoyed by either individuals or large groups,” said Powerhouse Senior Curator of Design and Architecture, Keinton Butler.

Cadeau takes domestic architectural elements and plays with their scale; exaggerating and fusing components to create a new, shared narrative between site, installation and those who visit it. This process of distortion produces an ensemble of habitable, ready-made ‘furniture’ used to define the central courtyard gathering and meeting place. The collection of individual pieces creates a verandah space that visitors are encouraged to explore and engage with. The installation also has the ability to adapt and change for specific events or future site conditions,” said founders of Curious Practice, Warren Haasnoot and Greg Lee. 

Cadeau showcases the best in timber manufacturing and design in Australia. Utilising American Oak, the installation combines the uniquely blonde, straight hardwood processed at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods with a dark coating to enhance its crown cut grain,” said Marketing Manager at ASH, Megan Para.

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