WA Museum Boola Bardip

With heritage and contemporary architecture framing vibrant communal spaces, WA Museum Boola Bardip celebrates the unique culture, history and landscape of Western Australia and contributes to revitalising the creative heart of its capital, Perth.

Designing for climate and Country, Hassell + OMA brought together designers from around the globe as one unified Perth team to create a place that reflects the distinct Western Australian identity. Boola Bardip means many stories’ in the Nyoongar language and the museum reflects a care for the shared cultural heritage of all West Australians.

Going well beyond the brief, the design team turned idea of a museum inside-out by asking how are these buildings connected to Country?’. Close collaboration with the Museum’s Aboriginal Advisory Group and Indigenous elders of the Whadjuk clan provided an opportunity to investigate and reinstate the cultural significance of place. 

In a triumph of adaptive reuse, five heritage-listed buildings have been restored and a series of creative interventions transforms their once solid, heavy structures into permeable ones upgraded for universal access. 

New interiors are designed as a series of virtual stories’ that guide visitors through the major galleries to experience more of the state’s collections. A 1,000 sqm special exhibition gallery features major exhibitions from around Australia and the world. Two intersecting loops mean visitors can explore the museum through vertical and horizontal pathways. 

Instead of programming hermetically-sealed spaces, the team opened each floor to external spaces and expansive terraces. Wandering between the restored heritage-listed buildings and the new contemporary development feels seamless for visitors, whether from outside in or inside out.

At the centre of the museum, old and new come together to frame a spectacular outdoor City Room’ – a public meeting place, event space and program area for the whole community. One that is connected to its cultural context and set into a native landscape. Four entry points into the precinct allow visitors to walk in and out freely — 24/7, 365 days of the year — which is hugely important to the Whadjuk traditional owners of the land and their kin. 

The building itself is designed to be highly transparent at the ground plane so you can see its content and hear its stories from the public realm, and engage with the museum whether it is open or closed. Around the periphery, retail spaces and places to eat and drink are designed to encourage visitors to flow through the museum’s open air arenas — especially after hours — contributing to the precinct’s livelihood and growth. 

In dealing with the constraints of the site, the architects have made a wider urban design contribution – providing vital activation and renewal of the Perth Cultural Centre… [likely to] soon be recognised as a design of national and international significance”. 

— John Taylor, 2021 WA Architecture Awards Chair of Juries 


Multiplex / State Government of Western Australia


Whadjuk Country
Perth, Australia









Design team

Mark Loughnan, Peter Dean, Brenden Kelly, Anthony Brookfield, David Gulland, Belinda Gilby, Benjamin Rees, Reuben Bourke, Hannah Galloway, David Hunt, Katherine Arrigan, Callum Chute, Philip Davies, Ricky Frazer, Sarah Gaikhorst, Wayne Greensill, Aysen Jenkins, Kaine Jenkins, Mark McKenna, Patrick O’Neil, Irene Payne, April Pine, Douglas William Pott, Thomas Proctor, Simon Rich, Michael Ruehr, Patrick Sims, Samuel Travers, Jill Turpin, Annika White, Lucy Elizabeth Wilson


Peter Bennetts


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This is a bold and dynamic architectural statement that will draw locals and visitors to the cultural heart of Western Australia.”

Hon David Templeman MLA WA Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts

I think this is one of the great cultural developments that we will see in this nation for many years, and a great opportunity for Perth.”

Mathew Trinca Director, National Museum of Australia

The storytelling in and outside the museum context and the openness of Boola Bardip’s spaces are a tribute to the design transformation and cultural engagement process.

Key moments of connection to Country include featuring Indigenous stories and embedding physical artefacts; playing soundscapes overlaid with frog songs, crackling fires, seasonal sounds; using mist to recall the cleansing smoke of ceremonial gatherings; and reinstating specific native plantings. These connections allow Whadjuk elders to feel a renewed sense of belonging to their Country while inviting elders from other Nations to be aware they’re entering a culturally significant location. They also become moments of implicit education for interstate and overseas visitors where it is easy to sense the importance of the Whadjuk’s connection to the land.

Through respect and inquiry, the project team has reconciled the century-young built history of the site with the 60,000-year Indigenous significance of the Country that Boola Bardip sits on, transforming it from a heritage archaeological redevelopment into a culturally-enriched community space. 

Our biggest contribution in terms of cultural significance was to transform a sorry place (with the Old Gaol at the centre of the development) into a place in which Indigenous communities would meet and gather. One of the proudest moments on the project was when Reconciliation Action Week chose its meeting point as the Museum.”

— Peter Dean, Principal

Our sustainability principles encompasses place, systems, carbon and social aspects of every project. 

For the WA Museum Boola Bardip, a holistic investigation of the site, ecosystem and Indigenous culture informs the entire project (as outline above).

Embracing nature and connecting to Country is central to the success of the project, resulting in spaces where visitors can see, hear, feel, and experience the atmosphere in a comfortable and meaningful way. 

The design informs a high-performance building envelope, where daylight floods public circulation areas and shaded, external verandas maximise natural ventilation (within the constraints of exhibition design).

The deeply shaded façade is a deliberate response to Western Australia’s often harsh climate, as is the use of thermal mass to encapsulate heat by day and allow it to dissipate slowly through the galleries and City Room of an evening. 

Energy performance is enhanced through the integration of a central energy plant on the adjacent City Library. That new central plant has diminished the carbon use or footprint of the cultural precinct by 40%. Significant material technology advances are also harnessed throughout. Interstitial glass features an internal mesh for high performance thermal buffering. 

More than 70% local materials have been used on the project and water-wise, local native planting has been prioritised around the site. 

The WA Museum Boola Bardip took out top honours at the Australian Institute of Architects 2021 WA Architecture Awards, scooping the pool in three categories

The museum picked up the John Septimus Roe Award for urban design, the Jeffrey Howlett Award for public architecture, and the coveted George Temple Poole Award, which is given to the project deemed by the jury as the most worthy of all the winners. 

The jury also commended the connection of the highly significant existing buildings to new volumes, assisting the museum to unfold in a series of exciting spatial experiences”. 

The WA Museum Boola Bardip is a superb facility for Western Australians to both understand and celebrate their special place in the world”

— Australian Institute of Architects WA Awards Jury 

More on the awards

ArchitectureAU: Many stories: WA Museum Boola Bardip
Through careful sculpting of new program into an uncoordinated existing context, collaborating architects Hassell and OMA have delivered a civic precinct that is uniquely Western Australian.”

AFR: WA Museum Boola Bardip enlivens Perth city centre
Perth’s new $400 million museum dominated this year’s state architecture awards, both for the role it has taken in enlivening the WA capital’s main cultural precinct as well as for showing the way museums can evolve to tell Indigenous as well as imported cultural stories.”

The West Australian: WA Museum Boola Bardip wins George Temple Poole Award at 2021 WA Architecture Awards
The layout of the building — located in Perth’s Cultural Centre on Whadjuk Noongar land — was praised for the way it unfolds in a series of exciting spatial experiences. The win has prompted speculation the project will soon be recognised globally as a design of national and international significance.”

Architecture&Design: Multiple gongs for Hassell+OMA’s WA Museum Boola Bardip at WA Architecture Awards
The WA Museum Boola Bardip designed by Hassell and OMA was the most awarded project at the 2021 WA Architecture Awards announced recently… 2021 WA jury chair Dr John Taylor, who also served on the George Temple Poole Award jury said, The WA Museum Boola Bardip provides an extraordinary solution to a complex brief, and a superb facility for Western Australians to both understand and celebrate our special place in the world.””



New Museum for Western Australia / Hassell + OMA https://t.co/B6mTSyW5LX https://t.co/qLfHnlLIj9

New Museum for Western Australia / Hassell + OMA https://t.co/B6mTSyW5LX https://t.co/qLfHnlLIj9


Happy Friday - the New Museum of WA looking good in the afternoon sun. @HASSELL_Studio #oma @wamuseum @WestAustralia @TourismAus https://t.co/qJ7L6yQasc

Happy Friday - the New Museum of WA looking good in the afternoon sun. @HASSELL_Studio #oma @wamuseum @WestAustralia @TourismAus https://t.co/qJ7L6yQ…


The New Museum by Hassell + OMA offers a multi-dimensional framework which interacts with Western Australia’s culture, nature and history combining h…

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