Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Frequently Asked Questions

What is the status of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Project?
On 28 April 2018, the NSW Government announced the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The government plans to retain a creative industries presence at Ultimo.

In 2017, the City of Parramatta Council and the NSW Government signed a Heads of Agreement (or contract) for Council’s Riverbank site to create a new cultural precinct on the Parramatta River. 

Council has a contractual obligation to transfer the site, including the land on which Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace sits, to the NSW State Government for the delivery of the MAAS. Under the Agreement, the NSW Government will pay Council $140 million for the Riverbank site, otherwise known to locals as the old David Jones carpark site.

No development approvals have been issued for the site or for Willow Grove and St George's Terrace.

An international design competition for the new museum and master-planning for the surrounding precinct will respond to Parramatta’s location and identity, and enliven community experience. 

As a State Significant Development project, the development approval for the MAAS rests with the NSW Government.

What will the new MAAS museum in Parramatta offer?
The new MAAS will be a significant cultural facility for one of Australia’s fastest growing and most diverse populations.

As the largest museum in NSW, it will deliver world-class opportunities for education and research and boost economic growth for the region, creating new jobs and partnership opportunities.

The new MAAS will provide the community with knowledge and hands-on experience of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).

New interactive exhibits and environments will allow visitors to explore and experience the museum’s rich exhibits and will enable them to access far more of the MAAS collection.

The new MAAS in Parramatta will:

  • offer 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space, making it the largest museum in NSW. It is to provide 15% more public space than the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo
  • give increased access to the internationally significant MAAS collection
  • feature state-of-the-art exhibition halls to host international travelling exhibitions, bringing the very best of the world to Sydney
  • be home to NSW’s first major planetarium
  • deliver Australia’s first dedicated play and learning space devoted to STEAM
  • include 21st century learning spaces and dedicated children’s spaces that encourage natural curiosity and are designed for everyone
  • form a new living room on the river’s edge, activating the River Plaza through event spaces, cafes and the museum shop
  • offer a range of social environments: large public spaces, cafés and bars, shopping and retail, nooks for casual study, and event and function spaces for celebrations or conferences.

What is a planetarium?
A planetarium is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky. It usually features a large dome-shaped projection screen onto which scenes of stars and planets can be made to appear and move realistically to simulate outer-space.

The new MAAS in Parramatta will house NSW’s first major planetarium. It will be larger than any planetarium in Australia at over 30m wide, this full dome experience will be fitted out with ultra-high-resolution 3D video complemented by multi-channel immersive audio, making it the most advanced visualisation environment in Australia.

What will the new MAAS planetarium be used for? 
The new MAAS planetarium will have the capabilities to go beyond astronomy, and will support 2D and 3D visualisation of big data, live video links from across the globe, new film, art and creative commissions and the chance to interactively explore 3D imaged objects from the MAAS collection.

What is the Art Bridge?
The NSW Government and City of Parramatta Council have agreed that an Art Bridge will facilitate connections from the new museum from the Riverbank’s edge through to Riverside Theatres. This new pedestrian bridge is envisioned to form one of the largest public art commissions in NSW.

When will the new MAAS open?
It is anticipated that the museum will be operational in 2023.

What is the NSW Government’s investment in the MAAS project?
The new MAAS in Parramatta will be the largest museum in NSW. Total net Government investment for the relocation will be $645 million, including the cost of acquiring land at Parramatta.

What are the next steps for the MAAS Project?
The NSW Government, through the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) in the Department of Planning and Environment, is working to deliver the new MAAS in Parramatta.

An international design competition for the new museum and master-planning for the surrounding precinct will respond to Parramatta’s location and identity, and enliven community experience.

The development of the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct will occur in several stages:

  • Late 2018: International Design Competition; the CIPMO team is working closely with the NSW Government Architects Office and the MAAS on the design of the competition. This is to ensure the competition meets world-class standards and industry expectations, and will guarantee an exceptional architectural outcome.
  • 2019: Early works commence in Parramatta
  • 2020 – 2022: MAAS exhibitions tour regionally and nationally
  • 2023: new Powerhouse museum in Parramatta opens.

What about existing heritage assets on the new museum site, in particular Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace?
As a State Significant Development project, the development approval for the MAAS rests with the NSW Government. 

The two properties on which Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace stand form a portion of the land identified in the Agreement be transferred to the NSW Government to deliver MAAS.

Whilst the title of the land may currently show Council as the owner, the contractual arrangements for the sale of the riverbank site have been executed, with Council in a contractual obligation to sell the site to the NSW State Government.

No development approvals have been issued for the site or for Willow Grove and St George's Terrace.

The City of Parramatta has written to the Premier, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Heritage and the State Member for Parramatta, asking the NSW Government to consider the heritage significance of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace in any future proposal for the development of the MAAS. Council has also requested a meeting with the Premier.

The NSW Government will ultimately decide how to manage the project and the site.  

The City of Parramatta welcomes public comments from the NSW Government that the design of the new museum will take local heritage into account. 

How will Council use the NSW Government payment for the Riverbank site?
The proceeds of the land sale will fund enhancements and upgrades to Riverside Theatres on the current theatre site. $100 million will be invested to enlarge and enhance the Riverside Theatres. The remaining $40 million will be used over 20 years to deliver Council’s Cultural Plan.

What does this mean for the future of the Riverside Theatres?
Investment is needed for Riverside Theatres if it is to meet the demands of future population growth in Western Sydney. The current venue is ageing, lacks accessibility, is limited in its capacity to attract a full range of productions and requires improved facilities to support professional and community usage and local productions. 

In 2014, the former Parramatta City Council resolved in-principle to redevelop Riverside but was unable to secure funding to proceed at that time.

Under the Heads of Agreement for the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct, and subject to a successful business case outcome and a NSW Government decision to proceed, $100 million from the payment to Council for the Riverbank site will be invested in an enlarged and enhanced Riverside Theatres to be built on the current site. The new Riverside Theatres will be developed and constructed by an equal joint venture between the City of Parramatta Council and the NSW Government. The Riverside Theatres site will be leased by Council so the joint venture will continue to be owned by Council.

If the Minister does not approve Council entering the joint venture and/or the Treasurer does not approve the State’s business case for the theatre project, then the NSW Government will pay the Council the $100 million which would be invested in Council’s community priorities.

Why create a Riverside Theatres Joint Venture?
The Joint Venture will aim to deliver the project objectives as set out in the Heads of Agreement:

  • to provide a theatre complex of architectural distinction and design excellence which has twenty first century functionality
  • to provide a world class cultural venue
  • to build on the valued brand of the existing Riverside Theatres and seek to maintain the Riverside Theatres connection with current audiences and continue to provide opportunity for educational and cultural industry development
  • to meet future demand for high quality, diverse performance from Australia and the world, as well as providing an outlet for local professional and community performance activity and content consistent with the Cultural Plan
  • to demonstrate ability to achieve sufficient positive cash flow in the long term to secure maintenance and operation, acknowledging that relevant permanent or temporary resident companies will require continuation of existing financial subsidies.

The NSW Government and Council will have a strong interest in the successful programming and commissioning of cultural content for this exciting new Riverside Theatres.

Is further approval of the Riverside Theatres Joint Venture required?
Yes. The Joint Venture needs to be negotiated between Council and the NSW Government.

When will Riverside Theatres be upgraded?
A target date will be set once the Riverside Theatres business case has been endorsed by the Joint Venture and submitted to the NSW State Government for its consideration.

Can I still park at the old David Jones Car Park?
Yes. The Agreement ensures that this car park will stay operational until the NSW Government is ready to develop the land for the new museum.

Where will the new museum be located?
The new MAAS will be located in the Parramatta Riverbank precinct which is on the Parramatta River at the intersection of Philip Street and Wilde Avenue. It is currently occupied by a series of buildings including the Riverbank Carpark.

The new MAAS, on the southern banks of the Parramatta River, will anchor the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct along with a revamped Riverside Theatres on the northern banks. Venues in the precinct will be connected by pedestrian links including an Art Bridge which will also be designed as a piece of public art.

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences location map


Why was the Riverbank site in Parramatta selected for the new MAAS?
The site was announced in 2016, after an extensive review of possible locations in Parramatta, and detailed considerations of two potential sites by the NSW State Government.

The site on the banks of the Parramatta River - as part of a larger arts and cultural precinct - will deliver a vibrant, exciting community hub by the Parramatta River that can be easily accessed and enjoyed day and night.

The NSW Government selected the riverbank site, over another site at Parramatta Golf Course, due to its proximity to public transport and easy accessibility for pedestrians.

Where can I find the NSW Government’s Business Case Summary for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum?
The Business Case summary for the relocated Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was released by Infrastructure NSW (INSW) on Saturday, 28 April 2018. You can view the summary of the Infrastructure NSW website.

The Business Case is the result of a number of previous studies from the past three years, and is underpinned by extensive architectural, museological, geotechnical, engineering, heritage and flood risk studies.

What will the new MAAS at Parramatta be called?
There is no decision on the name for the new MAAS in Parramatta. A name will be determined before the new museum opens in 2023.

What are the plans for the Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct?
The new MAAS in Parramatta, alongside a revamped Riverside Theatres performing arts centre, will support a growing and diverse population in Sydney’s central city.

The Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct will introduce new experiences and public spaces along Parramatta’s river foreshore. An international design competition for the new museum and master-planning for the precinct will respond to the location and Parramatta’s identity, and enliven community experiences.

What commercial or residential elements will be considered in the new museum development?
The NSW Government announcement considers commercial development on the new museum site to support a stronger arts and cultural sector and transform the river’s edge into a new place to live, work and meet with new ways to integrate and attract new audiences. The multi-use development will be designed to stimulate the economy and enhance the environment while raising the quality of life for the community.

How will the new precinct be connected to public transport?
The Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct is scheduled to be completed in 2023 at the time Stage 1 of the proposed Parramatta Light Rail opens from Carlingford to Westmead. It is easily accessible to the Parramatta Rivercat services.