As Parramatta aspires to be the economic and social powerhouse of the Sydney basin – culture gets tossed again – Old King’s School site to become a new primary school.
For many years now, the idea that Parramatta becomes a home for contemporary culture has been manifest in aspirations to transform the Old King’s School site into a centre for creative expression, a home for artists and ideas.
According to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW government now has plans to open a new primary school on the state-heritage site, despite it being long earmarked for arts and culture.
The site on the Parramatta River consists of several buildings, some of which have been empty for years, and sources say work could begin this year to start turning one into a school.
Last November, Infrastructure NSW recommended to the state government that: “a cultural precinct should be developed around the Old King’s School site, potentially including a relocated Powerhouse Museum.” The site would be a perfect location for something similar to what the Art Gallery of NSW unveiled today for its Sydney Modern, the large scale redevelopment set to transform the precinct, attracting international architects for the $450 million design competition.
"What Western Sydney needs is ongoing investment in existing cultural facilities across the region and the establishment of a new kind of cultural institution ..."
Western Sydney Arts and Culture Lobby spokesman David Capra said “We are really disappointed, we can’t quite understand it, and we haven’t been consulted. There’s a whole history to the Old King’s School site being seen as suitable for use as a cultural facility”.
A NSW Department of Education spokesman is reported to have said that no decision had been made about the future of the Old King’s School site but other sources have confirmed the plan was definitely going ahead.
When it was recently announced that the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) was to be moved to Parramatta, I expressed the view that while there was no doubt that Western Sydney needed major cultural institution infrastructure of some kind, there were doubts about the viability of the MAAS move.
MAAS is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of applied arts, design and science, world-wide. I suspect that the cost and feasibility of its move west has been underestimated and should it proceed, may result in the diminution of that remarkable collection.
What Western Sydney needs is ongoing investment in existing cultural facilities across the region and the establishment of a new kind of cultural institution – to serve as a catalyst for contemporary cultural practice and ideas, redolent of community and place – and what better location for that than in and around the Old King’s School.
Michael Rolfe, CEO M&G NSW
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