On my list of key buildings to photograph was SAM, Shepparton Art Museum. It was therefore a happy coincidence that I was asked to work in my Safety Officer role at the recent Shepparton Illuminate – a festival of music and light adjacent to the building. While there I took great delight in visiting SAM with my camera in hand.
Victoria Park Lake
Construction of this iconic Shepparton building was completed in early 2021, having been funded by the Greater Shepparton City Council, State and Federal Governments and local community contribution through the SAM Foundation. It is located at the south eastern corner of Victoria Park and its adjacent lake. The area offers a major amenity zone for the city, with activities such as walking, cycling, fishing and bird watching as well as the recent addition of SAM.
Illuminate was originally planned as a celebration of the opening of SAM, but due to Covid, the festival was postponed a couple of times. As a testament to post Covid lockdowns, the relief of the community was clear through unprecedented attendances on both nights of the festival. I guess the headline acts of Clare Bowditch and Christine Anu, the integration of a CFA torchlight procession and the climax of the laser, light and sound show had something to do with the number of patrons. From a safety point of view, I am happy to say that the event went off without major incident.
During my time off, I took the opportunity to photograph SAM. The building features four different metallic materials, including zinc and Corten steel, on each of its four facades. These panels are constructed from large ‘L’ shaped panels of varying heights, punctured where necessary to allow natural light into the interior space. My morning visit happened to coincide with the morning ritual of a large flock of noisy Corellas some of which took great delight in clinging to the façade and playing with their shadows on the vertical planes!
On entering the building there is a full height void that features coloured panels of varying shapes. These catch the morning sun beautifully and cast wonderful coloured shadows into the interior. The vertical circulation to the galleries on the upper three floors is via a grand stairway rising through an open atrium extending to the uppermost floor of the building. The atrium enjoys plenty of daylight from the large windows that feature in the front and rear facades.
The galleries are artificially lit to maximise flexibility to show off the ever-changing types of exhibits in the best possible light.
In addition to the galleries, the building accommodates the Greater Shepparton Visitor Centre, Kaiela Arts (a facility offering aboriginal art, workshops and studios and of course the obligatory shop and café (the latter offering irresistible pastries).
Although the exterior of SAM is very monosyllabic, my impression is that its simplicity sets off the surrounding landscape in a very admirable and complementary manner and, being located on the main road into the city from Melbourne, it is a landmark not to be missed.
I suggest that SAM is very successful in its mission of contributing to cultural enrichment, community engagement and economic prosperity of the region.