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Mathieson Architects
201/105 Reservoir Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010 Australia
Queensland Art Gallery by Robin Gibson
Discovering Brisbane’s riverside Queensland Art Gallery over summer was an inspiring architectural excursion. Long serving team member at Mathieson Mark Scott, carefully documented the gallery’s robust forms, thoughtful details and intersections with the landscape through photography, finding many parallels with Mathieson Architects’ own design pursuits.
Designed by Brisbane architect Robin Gibson and unveiled in 1982, the gallery’s brutalist, monolithic appearance sought to democratise the art held within, bringing it to a civic level.

While the elemental forms of Queensland Art Gallery are articulated in the singular material of concrete, a series of surface finishes — sand-blasted, scabbled, off-form, smooth — subtly enliven its surfaces. Understanding the importance of light to enhance these tactile materials, and equally, the public’s perception of art, Gibson employed full-height doorways, broad openings, and expansive skylights to draw natural light deep into the gallery. Travertine and timber flooring adds warmth and vitality, a mellow counterpoint to the otherwise rugged architectural palette.
A dramatic ‘water mall’ sits parallel to the Brisbane River, addressing the city’s sub-tropical climate by offering a cooling ambience within the gallery. Concrete fins bind the volume’s skylight ceiling with the gallery’s architectural expression, casting ephemeral plays of light and shadow into the space. The airy volume extends beyond the interior to define two external waterfalls at each end of the gallery, complete with embedded sculptures, such as the playful Dandelion Fountains by Robert Woodward.

Perhaps what struck Mark most was the consistency and legibility of the Queensland Art Gallery’s architecture as a timeless backdrop to the artwork — in particular, in its ability to frame abstract sculptural works such as Offshoot by Clement Meadmore, a weighty, sinuous work that seems to defy gravity at the gallery’s plaza entrance. With its sculptural stairs, plays of solid and void, and accretions of tropical planting, Queensland Art Gallery is a beacon of thoughtful design, which has significantly shaped Brisbane’s architectural iconography.
Stair Flip
Photography By Mark Scott