Light was a central driver for the architecture of the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM). Light is linked to illumination, illumination to knowledge, and given that education is central to the purpose of MHM then it seemed appropriate to deploy light as a motif and in creating welcoming, functional spaces especially for the education, research and event spaces.
The façade reinforces MHM’s role as cultural repository by integrating the original heritage building within it and treating it as an important artefact of the museum. There is a desire for MHM to be visually and physically connected to the community and the street through its façade and interior. So, the facade is variegated through a combination of clay and solid glass bricks. The composition of bricks is calibrated according to light sensitivity and the nature of internal activities and spaces it encloses. Views into and out of the building are enabled to and from less light sensitive zones such as administration and classrooms, and withheld from gallery and museum spaces.
The central public circulation spine which encompasses the stairs, circulation and breakout areas, links all the levels and the various activities. Significantly this space is designed to provide some relief for visitors more strongly affected by the difficult museum content. The program dispersed over 5 levels includes an auditorium, research and learning spaces, administration, archives, galleries and a series of memorial spaces – gardens, terraces and light shafts; for individual and collective reflection. Internal spaces are reserved and luminous, fostering education and understanding, this is a community facility to be shared and experienced.