Jason Starr
Jason Starr

14 Beautiful Museums in Australia and New Zealand

Jason Starr
Jason Starr

We've featured striking and stunning museums from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Now it's time to finish the list with some of the most beautiful museums in Australia.

1. Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand

Dating back to 1852, the Auckland Museum started in a farm worker's cottage and bounced from location to location until it was moved into its current home. After WWI, the existing collection was merged with a war memorial. The building was finished in 1929 and has since become one of the most famous buildings in Auckland. The impressive structure was designed by Grierson, Aimer and Draffin and features a neo-classicist style. Two additions were added through the years to commemorate those who served in WWII.

2. Art Gallery of New South Wales

The fourth largest museum in Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has been displaying Australian art from the time of the country's settlement until now.

The museum is mostly early Greek classical, but some of the wings constructed later on don't quite adhere to the original style designed by Walter Liberty Vernon. Admission to the museum is free, which is good—with eight wings and a rooftop sculpture garden, you might need to make multiple trips to see all the artwork.

3. Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

After Christchurch's Robert McDougall Art Gallery closed in 2002, the Christchurch Art Gallery took its place. The gallery's dramatic, modern structure was designed by the Buchan Group. "Te Puna o Waiwhetu" is the name for the spring below the gallery.

4. Sydney Observatory

Home of the oldest observatory and telescope (still actively used) in Australia, the Sydney Observatory dates back to 1858. The sandstone, Italianate structure originally just included an office and home for the resident astronomer; a wing was added in 1877 to provide an additional office, a library, and a second dome for another telescope. The structure was officially converted into a museum by government order in 1982.

Visitors are still invited to visit and use the 1874 telescope to stare at the stars every night; they can use a more modern telescope, too. Aside from serving as an observatory open to the public, the structure also houses an astronomical museum.

5. Sovereign Hill

There are quite a few open-air museums in Australia dedicated to the gold rush. One of those museums is the incredibly popular and delightfully charming Sovereign Hill, where gold was discovered in 1851. The museum, opened in 1970, strives to be a perfect copycat of the town in the 1850s—complete with costumed actors, antiques, and gold panning—and stretches over 62 acres, including two full-sized mines where guests can enjoy guided tours.

6. Albury Library Museum

Both a library and a museum, this great space in Albury was designed by Ashton Raggatt McDougall and opened in 2007. The orange, criss-cross accents on the exterior are said to have been inspired by the historic Murray River rail bridge. The innovative look of the structure earned the building the National Award for Public Architecture from the Australian Institute of Architecture.

The building's library offers a selection of 50,000 materials while the museum showcases the city's culture and heritage, including that of the Wiradjuri natives who once lived in the area.

7. Questacon

Also known as the National Science and Technology Centre, this impressive space offers more than 200 interactive science and technology exhibits—many of which are dedicated to inspiring children in the area to develop an interest in science. Surprisingly, the modernist structure is already almost 25 years old, a gift from Japan for Australia's 1988 bicentenary.

8. Nafsika Stamoulis Hellenic Museum Limited

The Hellenic Museum aims to promote “the celebration, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of ancient and modern Greece.” While the museum was only founded in 2007, it's housed in the old Royal Mint building that in dates back to 1872. The mint building is one of only a handful of Australian structures built in the Renaissance revival style. It was designed by J.J. Clark, who was strongly inspired by Raphael's 1515 Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli.

9. Monte Cristo Homestead

Once a home to the Crawley family, this 1885 Victorian manor stood empty between 1948 and 1963, when it was purchased by Reg and Olive Ryan, who restored the structure and turned it into a museum and antique store. Aside from providing a look at Victorian life and architecture, the Monte Cristo Homestead is also a popular destination for those seeking ghost sightings—it's considered by many to be the most haunted house in Australia.

10. Campbelltown Arts Centre

Aside from an art gallery space, this impressive building features a 180-seat performance studio, event spaces, a sculpture garden, a Japanese garden, a cafe, an amphitheater, and more. It also supports contemporary artists in the area by featuring a residency apartment and studio spaces. Campbelltown is home to one of the biggest Aboriginal communities in Australia, so the center has a particular emphasis on Indigenous visual and performance arts.

11. Australian Museum

The Australian Museum was founded in 1827, making it the oldest museum in the country. The museum building, designed by James Barnet, was completed in 1849 and officially opened to the public in 1857. Since then, it has been expanded and extended greatly to create space for the ever-increasing collection, which covers all nature of sciences including mineralogy, paleontology, anthropology, zoology, and natural history.

12. National Museum of Australia

Formally established by the National Museum of Australia Act of 1980, this national museum is surprisingly young compared to many other national museums; the building wasn't even finished until 2001. The structure was designed by Howard Raggatt, who was inspired by the idea of ropes trailing from a center knot—the ropes represent the stories of all Australians that make up the overall story of the country itself. The exterior is covered in aluminum panels, many of which feature words written in Braille (although some of the words and phrases—such as "forgive us our genocide"—were considered controversial and have since been obscured by silver discs).

While the building where it is housed is entirely modernist, the contents are totally classic, exploring and preserving 50,000 years of history in Australia. The museum's holdings include the largest collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and stone tools.

13. Australian War Memorial

Opened in 1941, the Australian War Memorial is the country's dedication to the members of its armed forces. The memorial also features a military museum, a research center, and a sculpture garden. The idea of the museum occurred to Charles Bean as he observed the fighting of WWI in France in 1916.

The structure was a result of a 1927 design contest that did not have a winner, but instead two participants were asked to create a joint design. The structure was completed in 1941, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. In front of the structure is a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame. To either side of the courtyard are bronze plaques naming all 102,000 Australian military personnel who have been killed in the line of duty all the way back to the British Sudanese Expedition. Visitors are encouraged to insert poppies in the cracks to honor those who have died.

14. Geelong Art Gallery

The Geelong Art Gallery hosts an impressive collection of 4000 works of art. The gallery itself was first created in 1895, and the current building was opened in 1915. The gallery was expanded in 1928 and again in 1937, 1956, and 1971. Now the once small art gallery is incredibly expansive and stretches across half a block.

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Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Norway Opens Another Spectacular Roadside Bathroom
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen

Norway’s National Tourist Routes will change how you think about rest stops. As part of a decades-long program, the Norwegian government has been hiring architects and designers to create beautiful roadside lookouts, bathrooms, and other amenities for travelers along 18 scenic highways throughout the country. One of the latest of the projects unveiled, spotted by Dezeen, is a glitzy restroom located on the Arctic island of Andøya in northern Norway.

The facility, designed by the Oslo-based Morfeus Arkitekter, is located near a rock formation called Bukkekjerka, once used as a sacrificial site by the indigenous Sami people. The angular concrete and steel structure is designed to fit in with the jagged mountains that surround it.

The mirrored exterior wall of the bathroom serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it reflects the scenery around the building, helping it blend into the landscape. But it also has a hidden feature. It’s a one-way mirror, allowing those inside the restroom to have a private view out over the ocean or back into the mountains while they pee.

The newly landscaped rest area near the bathroom will serve as an event space in the future. The Bukkekjerka site is already home to an annual open-air church service, and with the new construction, the space will also be used for weddings and other events. Because this is the Arctic Circle, though, the restroom is only open in the late spring and summer, closing from October to May. Check it out in the photos below.

A bathroom nestled in a hilly landscape
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

The mirrored facade of a rest stop reflects concrete steps leading down a pathway.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A person stands outside the bathroom's reflective wall.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A wide view of a rest stop at the base of a coastal mountain
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Trine Kanter Zerwekh / Statens vegvesen

[h/t Dezeen]

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Snøhetta
Norway's New Hotel in the Arctic Circle Will Produce More Energy Than It Uses
Snøhetta
Snøhetta

A new hotel coming to Norway’s section of the Arctic Circle will be more than just a place to stay for a stunning fjord view. The Svart hotel, which is being billed as the world’s first "energy-positive" hotel, is designed to “set a new standard in sustainable travel,” according to Robb Report.

Built by a tourism company called Arctic Adventure Norway and designed by Snøhetta, an international architecture firm headquartered in Oslo, it’s one of the first buildings created according to the standards of Powerhouse, a coalition of firms (including Snøhetta) devoted to putting up buildings that will produce more power over the course of 60 years than they take to build, run, and eventually demolish. It will be located on a fjord at the base of Svartisen, one of the largest glaciers on Norway’s mainland and part of Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park.

A hotel stretches out above the water of a fjord.
Snøhetta

The design of the hotel is geared toward making the facility as energy-efficient as possible. The architects mapped how the Sun shines through the mountains throughout the year to come up with the circular structure. When the Sun is high in the winter, the terraces outside the rooms provide shadows that reduce the need for air conditioning, while the windows are angled to catch the low winter Sun, keeping the building warm during cold Arctic winters. In total, it is expected to use 85 percent less energy than a traditional hotel.

The sun reflects off the roof of a hotel at the base of a glacier on a sunny day.
Snøhetta

Svart will also produce its own energy through rooftop solar panels, though it won’t have excess energy on hand year-round. Since it’s located in the Arctic Circle, the hotel will have an abundance of sunlight during the summer, at which point it will sell its excess energy to the local electricity grid. In the winter, when it’s too dark for solar energy production, the hotel will buy energy back from the grid. Over the course of the year, it will still produce more energy than it uses, and over time, it will eventually produce enough excess energy to offset the energy that was used to build the structure (including the creation of the building materials).

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen explains in the firm’s description of the design. “Building an energy-positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features” of the area.

Svart is set to open in 2021.

[h/t Robb Report]

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