Architectural model, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, plastic / wood / card, Philip Cox / Cox Architects, New South Wales, Australia, [1985-1990]
The 1980s was a high point of achievement and recognition for Philip Cox. This was partly because the Bicentennial decade saw a publicly-funded boom in buildings for the arts, leisure and sport, reversing decades of neglect of cultural infrastructure; the Sydney Opera House was a notable exception to this trend.
Cox had already established a reputation with these building types and Sydney's regenerated Darling Harbour features three of his designs; the Exhibition Centre, Sydney Aquarium and the National Maritime Museum. Darling Harbour was designed as a new cultural precinct. These three cultural institutions, together with the neighbouring Entertainment Centre, Powerhouse Museum and the Convention Centre designed by John Andrews were conceived as the place markers of the new precinct. Philip Cox wrote 1988:
'Darling Harbour represents to me Exhibition Road in Kensington, with its corresponding Victoria and Albert Museum, its Science Museum and other museums. It is being done at a time when the economy is buoyant and it inspires confidence in a cultural sense. It provides people with a cultural and entertainment centre.'[Architecture Bulletin, September 1988, p.3.]
Cox's Darling Harbour buildings established his reputation in Sydney and Australia. In succeeding decades many of his most high-profile projects were for international clients.
The Maritime Museum design, like that of the Exhibition Centre and Powerhouse, evokes the vast glass and iron pavilions created for the international exhibitions of the 1800s. Its high walls and roofs are dictated by the tall boat masts they must enclose, while the requirements of interior light control presumably dictated the primarily opaque walls. The harbour side of the building is more open, permitting views and access to the nearby wharves where the Museum's heritage fleet is displayed.
Charles Pickett, curator Design and built environment.
Philip Cox (b.1939) is one of Australia's most prolific and influential architects. Shortly after graduating from the University of Sydney in 1962 Cox went into partnership with established architect Ian McKay. This alliance facilitated work on two large projects early in Cox's career. The first was a boys's home for the Presbyterian Church at Emerald Hill, Leppington, the second the Alexander Agricultural College at Tocal, near Paterson in the NSW Hunter Valley. These projects were awarded the Sulman Prize in 1963 and 1965 respectively.
Cox formed his own practice in 1972. The National Athletics Stadium and adjacent AIS Sports and Training Centre were its first major projects. They were doubly significant is establishing the steel structuralist design vocabulary associated with Cox from this time and used in numerous high-profile projects including the Sydney Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Uluru Tourist Resort.
The Canberra venues also laid the foundations for Cox's eminence in the new (in Australia) field of stadium architecture. In this field Cox's work includes the Sydney Football Stadium, the National Tennis Centre, Melbourne, the Sydney Showground Arena, AAMI Park, Melbourne and the Khalifa Stadium, Doha.
Cox and his practise have been influential in several building genres. During the 1980s Cox Architects designed some significant low-rise public housing apartment complexes in Wolloomooloo and other Sydney locations. These projects created new neighbourhoods carefully integrated with established but socially and architecturally challenged areas. The urban renewal theme is also evident in Cox's design for the Haymarket campus and library for the University of Technology, Sydney.
Other Cox buildings sited close the Powerhouse Museum are the UTS Design, Architecture and Building Faculty on Harris Street and the neighbouring second (TV studio) stage of the ABC complex.