Queensland Art Gallery: The beginning of South Bank’s transformation

 

In 1969, the announcement of the Queensland Art Gallery’s new premises to be built at South Brisbane, bounded by Melbourne and Grey Streets to Stanley Street and the Brisbane River, and ultimately morphing into the Queensland Cultural Centre, would signal the transformation of the area. The project would be the catalyst for other major developments at South Bank.

Acquisition of land for the Cultural Centre occurred in three stages: the Art Gallery site, which would in due course, include the Museum (1969–77); Performing Arts Complex and Library sites (1975–79); and the Russell Street site for future expansion (1978–80).

As we celebrate 40 years at South Bank, we look at the buildings that occupied the South Brisbane site and surroundings before the Queensland Art Gallery opened, unearthing images of the site preparation, the building still under construction, and fit out of the interior spaces.

RELATED: Part 3: The Queensland Art Gallery design competition

RELATED: Part 2: Finding a suitable site for the Queensland Art Gallery

RELATED: Part 1: The proposals for a Cultural Centre for Queensland

The Art Gallery was initially to be located along Grey Street, Melbourne Street intersection on the site of the York House Private Hotel where the Museum is today, and between it and the river edge was parkland, the Gallery’s horizontal buildings were to step down as terraces to the river, however when the Cultural Centre precinct was proposed, the Art Gallery’s placement moved closer to Stanley Street and the river allowing the Museum to share the footprint.

Model of the Queensland Art Gallery, located along Grey Street, Melbourne Street intersection, 1973 / Photograph: Richard Stringer

Future site and surroundings

Victoria Building, Melbourne and Stanley Street intersection, South Brisbane, demolished 1966 to make way for the new and third permanent Victoria Bridge / P53949 / Courtesy: Royal Historical Society of Queensland
Hotel Victoria, Melbourne and Stanley Street intersection (riverside), South Brisbane, c.1950, the site of the Performing Arts Complex plaza / 31557-0001-0082 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Grey Street from Melbourne Street towards the William Jolly Bridge, South Brisbane, 1950. York House Private Hotel (middle distance) demolished for the proposed Queensland Art Gallery site, now the Museum site, and Bayards Department Store (right) now the Performing Arts Complex site / BCC-B54-647 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council
Grey Street and Melbourne Street Intersection toward the Victoria Bridge to the right and William Jolly Bridge to the left, South Brisbane. Originally proposed as the Queensland Art Gallery site, now the Museum corner / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
The second permanent Victoria Bridge, South Brisbane, October 1953 / BCC-B54-4278 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council
Grey Street and Melbourne Street Intersection toward the South Brisbane Railway Station (middle distance), South Brisbane, 1971. Bayards Department Store can be seen on the left / BCC-B54-35045 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council
Abandoned buildings, Grey Street toward William Jolly Bridge to the right, down from York House Private Hotel, Melbourne Street Intersection. Site of the current Museum / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Construction of the current and third permanent Victoria Bridge to the left and the second permanent bridge to the right, 1968 / 108235 – 21218208600002061 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Overlooking the future site of the Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank, 1976 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

A hallmark of the Queensland Art Gallery and Cultural Centre as a whole is an integrated approach to the design of the architecture’s low-profile monolithic forms, geometric approach to design, and simple, ‘pure’ construction details, all in parallel with the Brisbane River. Specifically the use of a simple palette of materials throughout; a monolithic, white, lightly sandblasted concrete finish and glass, with bronze, stone and timber detailing. The architects settled on a concrete mix that included: white cement from South Australia; fine white sand from Stradbroke Island, the second largest sand island in the world; and fine and coarse aggregates from the Pine River, also in the Moreton Bay Region.

The Queensland Art Gallery was opened by the Premier of Queensland on 21 June 1982, and in the same year, the Gallery won the Sir Zelman Cowan Award for Public Buildings, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ highest award for public buildings.

DELVE DEEPER: The history of the Queensland Art Gallery

Site earthworks

Removal of the old wharf structures along the Brisbane River / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Site works and workshop for the Queensland Art Gallery / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queensland Art Gallery construction with earthworks underway along the Brisbane River / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Construction

Queensland Art Gallery construction, c.1976 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Queensland Art Gallery construction, June 1979 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queensland Art Gallery construction c.1980 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Fit out

The Queensland Art Gallery building still under construction, July 1981 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

The Queensland Art Gallery during fit out, March 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Queensland Art Gallery

Queensland Art Gallery, 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank and surrounding South Brisbane, 15 June 1982 / BCC-B120-7876 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council
Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank and surrounding South Brisbane, 15 June 1982 / BCC-B120-7879 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council
Max Dupain, Australia 1911-1992 / Looking across the river towards the Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queensland Art Gallery prior to opening, June 1982

This is an edited extract from the Queensland Cultural Centre Conservation Management Plan (published 2017), prepared by Conrad Gargett in association with Thom Blake, Historian and heritage consultant. Thom Blake researched and wrote the chapters on the history of the Cultural Centre and revised statement of significance. The individual building’s architecture, the site’s setting, landscape and fabric were investigated by Luke Pendergast with principal support by Robert Riddel. Alan Kirkwood and Peter Roy assisted with advice on the design approach and history of the planning and construction of the Cultural Centre.

The Queensland Art Gallery entered the Queensland Heritage Register in 2015

Additional research and supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA
#QAGOMA

Reply