Powerhouse Museum on the brink of extinction: Kylie Winkworth

3 October 2022

The Powerhouse Museum is not being renewed; it is being demolished at a cost of $500m.
A 142 year old museum is on the brink of extinction.  

What’s at risk in the secret ‘Ultimo Renewal‘ demolition plans

  • The government is spending $500 million to erase all trace of the 1988 Powerhouse Museum, its major buildings and signature exhibitions, turning the PHM into a fashion, design and creative industries precinct
  • The PHM will no longer be a museum, or be called the Powerhouse Museum. It is now Powerhouse Ultimo.
  • The PHM is being demolished and redeveloped in secret plans as a creative industries precinct with subsidised artists’ studios and theatres and a focus on fashion and design
  • In the design competition now underway, only the brick shell of the former power station will be kept
  • The Sulman award winning Wran building on Harris Street will be demolished. In its place will be an eight storey building along Harris St, erasing both the Wran building and the sunny square at the museum’s entry.  
  • Just three large objects will be left in the former PHM, stranded among the pots and frocks
  • The rest of the museum’s collections exhibited and housed in the PHM are being evicted to the inaccessible Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill
  • The Harwood building, the former tram depot and state-of- the-art collection facility has been excised from the PHM without explanation or consultation. It will likely be a development site. The plans for this building are secret.
  • The Harwood building is an integral part of the PHM’s history, design and museum operations. Its loss will forever degrade and diminish the functionality of the PHM and the access to the PHM’s collections for education, exhibitions and public engagement. 
  • The government says its ‘Powerhouse Ultimo’ scheme will be bigger. This is not true. It will be smaller than the Real Powerhouse Museum, at a staggering cost of $500m.    
  • The museum’s family audiences are being ignored. ‘Powerhouse Ultimo’ is for artists and creatives, not families.
  • There has been no consultation with regional communities or the PHM’s affiliated societies nor recognition that the Powerhouse is a state museum built by and for the people of NSW, not a museum for the eastern suburbs 
  • While Central/ Ultimo is being developed as a Tech Precinct, the government is evicting the PHM’s science and technology exhibitions and collections, turning the former museum into a function centre and facility for fashion designers, artists and creatives

What you can do to save the PHM….

  • Visit the PHM and see Steam Revolution and the remains of the Transport, Flight and Space exhibition before it is dismantled and the collections disappear to storage at Castle Hill
  • Lodge an objection to the EIS/ design competition by emailing the planner  renah.givney@dpie.nsw.gov.au   
  • Tell your family and friends the Powerhouse Museum is NOT SAVED. It is not being renewed. It is being demolished.
  • Write to your MP and ask them to speak out on saving the PHM
  • Write to the Premier to complain about his broken promises on the PHM, detailed in the media release under his name of 4 July 2020
  • Write to the Planning Minister and demand that there is transparent consultation with all the affected communities
  • Write to the Labor Opposition leader Chris Minns and ask that Labor commits to saving the PHM
  • Share the news of the looming demolition of the PHM among your networks, in the media, on talk back radio, and on social media

Key Demands or Requirements

  • There is only one Powerhouse Museum and it is in Ultimo, its home since 1893. The PHM must retain its unique brand and identity as the Powerhouse Museum.
  • The reckless, wasteful and destructive design competition must be abandoned
  • The Powerhouse Museum must continue as a museum of applied arts and sciences, displaying science, engineering, transport, innovation, social history and design and fashion
  • The PHM must be a renewed as the Powerhouse Museum, as Premier Perrottet promised, not a creative industries precinct
  • The Powerhouse Museum must be renewed as a family museum and as one of Sydney’s internationally recognised tourism attractions 
  • The PHM must be renewed in consultation with the PHM’s architect, and with respect for its transport and industrial history, heritage values and award winning design
  • The Harwood building must be retained and continue its functions as an integral part of the PHM’s operations, enhancing public access to the collections, education, trades training, conservation and research
  • The whole Powerhouse Museum site should be listed on the State Heritage Register, along with its notable in situ transport and engineering installations
  • The creative industries precinct should be developed at North Eveleigh next to Carriageworks

Kylie Winkworth

3 October 2022

Read also:

The Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal EIS papers for the design competition are on this link. See also the submissions under the submissions tab: