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Double Dutch 2009
American white oak
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Double Dutch 2009
American white oak
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Kokoso 2009arrow

Kokoso 2009
Blackbean
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National Gallery of Australia

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Kokoso 2009
Blackbean
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National Gallery of Australia

Rem 2009arrow

Rem 2009
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Art Gallery of South Australia

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Rem 2009
Blackbean
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Art Gallery of South Australia

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Ryan 2009arrow

Ryan 2009
American black walnut, porcelain
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Ryan 2009
American black walnut, porcelain
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Museum of Economic
Botany 2009
Adelaide Botanic Garden
Blackwood
3025x7100x7500

In May 2009 one of Khai Liew’s most important and successful design commissions opened in the Museum of Economic Botany of the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The neo-classical building, now on the Register of the National Estate, was designed by the architect E.J. Woods and opened in 1881. Its fabric and displays remained a unique, intact and unspoilt example of Victorian carpological museology until the mid 1960s when part of the interior was ‘modernised,’ which is to say vandalised. Several high vitrine bays and other showcases as well as busts and pieces of botanical art were lost as the area they occupied, about one third of the museum, was given over to an coarse temporary exhibitions and events space.

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Museum of Economic Botany 2009
Adelaide Botanic Garden

Blackwood
3025x7100x7500

In May 2009 one of Khai Liew’s most important and successful design commissions opened in the Museum of Economic Botany of the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The neo-classical building, now on the Register of the National Estate, was designed by the architect E.J. Woods and opened in 1881. Its fabric and displays remained a unique, intact and unspoilt example of Victorian carpological museology until the mid 1960s when part of the interior was ‘modernised,’ which is to say vandalised. Several high vitrine bays and other showcases as well as busts and pieces of botanical art were lost as the area they occupied, about one third of the museum, was given over to an coarse temporary exhibitions and events space.

In 2008 Liew was engaged to design and build an exhibition enclosure to encompass the 1960s void. It was a daunting task: the museum’s delicate Victorian wall and ceiling decorations had survived largely unmarked and the other display furniture was in good condition, given its age. Liew’s objective then was to construct a modern display enclosure that would stand within the older space and complement the building and its period without touching it. It had to be visually permeable, physically demountable, powered and illuminated, and able to serve the demands of curators now and in the future. His solution was both ingenious and a grace to the building. In short form it consists of 16 display screens hung on a spare enclosure formed by timber bridging rails with metal brackets and mitre joints. Within stand four tall vitrines and four low study cases. Over the past three decades, nationwide, there have been a number of similar interventions or restorations of function in heritage buildings, including museums, but it is hard to think of a more felicitous one than this.

© Peter Ward, April 2010