ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is the largest museum in the world devoted to screen culture and moving images. BKK led this game-changing renewal project – a very complex adaptive re-use.
The project involved gutting and replacing the ground and first floors of ACMI’s premises: the Alfred Deakin Building at Melbourne’s heritage-listed Federation Square.
The project’s major moves are:
ACMI has two main entrances: one on Flinders Street, a major Melbourne thoroughfare, and one in the Federation Square concourse two levels higher.
One of the project’s main aims was making its confusing multi-level layout more legible and cohesive. The building had never really been customised for ACMI’s uses, and it lacked a clear external identity or entry point. Visitors often went to one component of the museum without finding the others.
We addressed these issues with our biggest architectural move: the large timber stair linking the levels visually and physically. The stair also recalls a classic Melburnian laneway – part of the original Federation Square design that hadn’t been realised.
As well, we relocated ACMI’s shop to a prominent position opening onto Flinders Street and onto the generous Flinders Street foyer. After hours, the shop doubles as a function space.
Both shop and foyer can be used, separately or together, for functions and there is a motorised blind that retracts into the ceiling to divide them.
The design process needed genuine multi-disciplinary collaboration to ensure all technical, educational, workplace and architectural requirements were met.
BKK worked closely with exhibition designers from Publicis Sapient, Schuler Shook lighting designers and many engineering disciplines, as well as ACMI’s curatorial team. Our collaborative workshops explored ideas using sketches, drawings and sticky notes from all participants. Together, we developed the strategic design framework from the project’s outset.
We also worked closely with original Federation Square architect Donald Bates (LAB + Bates Smart) to understand the fundamental design intentions in detail.
For ACMI’s school-age programs, we created flexible tech-enabled spaces with AV booths and projection screens. The Learning Lab ceiling, for example, is demountable. There’s a secondary ceiling grid above the main ceiling that delivers power through moveable umbilical cords, so the room can be reconfigured for different activities.
ACMI, by nature, needs to remain at the forefront of digital technology and it required a significant update to its AV and technical fitout.
Our brief required us to maximise gallery floor space wherever possible, so we installed new infrastructure that allows technicians to work on the gallery floor or remotely rather than in large server rooms, which take up valuable real estate.
We maximised space outside the galleries too: we designed bespoke ceiling coffers for the ground-floor entrance area, which are demountable to allow access to services in the ceiling. This minimised additional access panels. New AV boxes are discreetly hidden throughout all the main public spaces for maximum in-built flexibility.
The Swinburne Studio is a larger event space than ACMI had previously. It has a servery, which boosts commercial potential, and overlooks the atrium, inviting people to see the activities inside.
The Media Preservation Lab is mainly for staff but occasionally opens to the public for special events. Visitors can see inside from the adjacent Audience Lab.