Fender Katsalidis Architects
Museum of Old and New Art
The year of 2016 saw an expansion of MONA into the iconic Pharos Wing. The extension was set as a continuum of the museum’s signiture expeditionary journey. Simply beginning the voyage through the Pharos Wing is as much of a challenge as the Cretan Labyrinth;there is a total lack of clear entry or definite direction. The wing itself – named Pharos for the Lighthouse of Alexandria – is aptly a temple to light. Walsh defines the Pharos Wing to be a number of contradictory and co-exisiting things, present all in the one time. When all is said and done, interpretation remains to be the beauty of art, and MONA has always called to open minds. Pharos implores for a step further into artistic sceptism; whilst MONA is described as an antidote to closed-mindedness, Walsh intends Pharos to be open heart surgery.
The wing is home to artworks by American artist, James Turrell. Turrell expertly negotiates light and conciousness within subterranean spaces, subsequently creating an experiential maze that begs one to lose oneself whislt inciting diagnosis. Pharos, as an artistic procession of light, is an everchanging yet changeless monument of MONA, and by extension, David Walsh himself.
The desire for Pharos to exist as portrait of MONA required it to be distinct from the rest of the museum. This goal was achieved both spacially and aesthetically – the 14-metre inverted parabola demanding absolute attention from the onlooker. It drags the gaze inwards to the iconic white sphere located in the Faro Tapas Bar, while the orb itself invites guests within to be immersed in a encompassing virtual kaleidoscope. MONA defines itself by raw monolithic concrete; Pharos is no different.
The open architectual construction alive both within and without the museum displays the artistry of the working structural framework. Arguably the most recognisable component of the outside MONA, the parabola also the most structurally challenging. The pavillion extends over the River Derwent, creating the bold forefront of the museum. Given the environmental sensitivity of the banks, the strategy to install the structure’s foundations within the riverbed itself – while essential – was incredibly high risk. The project’s success not only secured one of Tasmania’s most iconic cultural landmarks, but also honoured the work of developers, architects and engineers alike in its open exemplary structure.