Designing for a heritage building.

Macaria, The Alan Baker Art Gallery.


CLIENT | Dunn & Hillam Architects

SERVICES | Mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, specialist lighting & fire


Macaria, The Alan Baker Art Gallery is situated in Camden, Sydney. The 150 year old council administration building has been transformed into a public art gallery showcasing the art of local artist Alan Baker.

The heritage house, Macaria was originally built in the mid-19th century for Henry Thompson, it is a classic example of Tudor-Gothic architecture. It sits amidst a precinct of historic and cultural buildings in Camden and is an item of local significance.

JHA Consulting Services provided Electrical, Hydraulic, Mechanical, Fire & Specialist Lighting on this historic building.

Working with heritage buildings is always an equally challenging and rewarding experience. Particular challenges which affected this mechanical design included the restriction placed upon the addition of any external wall penetrations and the inability to install air conditioning and ventilation systems that would affect the existing internal walls or ceilings.

The mechanical services design included the replacement of existing obsolete sub-floor air conditioning systems and replacing with new energy efficient VRV ducted systems. This involved close coordination with the existing sub-floor structure whilst still maintaining adequate maintenance access. Given the heritage nature of the project, the final selection and sourcing of the custom brass finish floor supply and return grilles had to be carefully coordinated to match the architectural intent.

The Macaria Gallery hosts a series of intimate spaces where lighting plays a key role in connecting the community to works of art and history.

There are many technical considerations when it comes to illuminating artworks; from selecting a correlated colour temperature and colour rendering index that will best present a whole collection of works of different colours, materials etc, through to balancing brightness of artificial light against daylight ingress to ensure that the conservation of works is not compromised with light.

Architecturally, this gallery was beautiful to begin with so light was also used to bring awareness and appreciation to the unique spaces. Ultimately the goal was for light and certainly light fixtures not to be the hero, but for the spaces and artworks to really sing. To achieve this we offset all the lighting from the walls and ceilings to give the heritage features breathing room, and we used a combination of indirect light, wall washing, spotlighting and a very flexible control system to bring visual balance and hierarchy.