The cloak of invisibility has been given a definitive presence through the promising collaboration between architect Nic Brunsdon and ENESS in response to the 2023 NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) Architecture Commission Triennial theme : magic, matter and memory.  The NGV stands as a cultural disposition by continually adapting its approach to art in resonance with contemporary themes with a focus on matters of relevance in today’s contemporary world. It is an art museum located in Melbourne, Australia and is one of the oldest and most visited public art museums. The museum houses a collection of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other forms of visual art. 

This is Air: The National Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon - Sheet1
National Gallery of Victoria_©Pete Dillon

The theme focused on delving into the capacity of various practices to engage critically with elements of dependance that one encounters. Ewan McEoin, the NGV’s senior curator of Contemporary, Art, Design elucidated the criteria for selection. Focus was given on identifying practices that incorporate research elements into work and at the same time imbibe a potential to venture beyond commercial projects, in resonance with a global perspective. Submissions explored memory and matter as a theme. Shortlisted entries responding to the aforementioned themes included Taylor and Hind’s proposal ‘What we know, Is what we remember’ that envisions a murnong field enclosed by bronze mesh, symbolising memory.  Supermanoeuvre’s YIMBY achieves a collective Urban memory with a shared backyards and Studiobird/ Simona’s ‘Simply Irresistible’’ creates a memory linked portal. Spresser and Peter Besley’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ grids charred staves, referencing memory and significant issues like colonialism, climate and consumerism. 

Through a meticulous and competitive process of evaluation, Nic Brunsdon was chosen for the prestigious Architecture Commission by the National Gallery of Victoria. Defining and defying architectural identity, Brunsdon’s selection marks a pivotal moment in the gallery’s history, promising an innovative blend of artistry and design detail that would captivate and reshape the way art is experienced. With a profound understanding of spatial harmony, Nic Brunsdon brings an interesting, engaging and thought provoking installation that is bound to define avant garde. Nic Brunsdon is an accomplished architect known for his innovative and boundary breaking approach to architectural perceptions and designs. With a keen focus on merging architectural concepts with cultural and societal contexts, his designs often resonate with human experiences. His work is characterised by its ability to provoke, invoke and inspire thought processes, challenge contemporary conventions and engage with the immediate environment. Brundson’s designs tend to incorporate elements of sustainability, research and a deep understanding of cultural and social significance of the places he works with. The culmination of his design thinking and bold approach led to a framework for the conceptualisation of his installation, accurately named (This is)Air. 

Nic Brundson’s architectural approach seamlessly resonates with the central idea of the ‘Matter’ theme. The exploration of the project is rooted in the intricacy produced between nature, materials and the artistry of craftsmanship. There is a deep reverence for the sensibility and tectonics of materiality. 

This is Air: The National Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon - Sheet2
This is Air_Image rendering_©Nic Brunsdon

(This is) Air will assume the centrepiece of the National Gallery of Victoria. (This is) Air is an inflatable sphere, colossal and magnanimous in appearance, exhibiting a quality of permanence and impermanence. Utilising air as its primary building material, the installation orchestrates an ongoing metamorphosis that echoes a ceaseless journey of transformation, in tandem with the rhythms of the day. Resonating with the organic pulse of air, the structure swells and contracts , mirroring the very essence it embodies. The culmination of this exploration manifests as a fully inflated sphere, reaching an impressive altitude that exceeds 14 metres in height, imparting a profound sense of buoyant optimism.

During the day time, intermittent bursts of air are released, conjuring an ephemeral cloud like configuration that disperses before growing out anew. This interesting and interactive panorama invites observers to reflect upon humanity’s intricate and delicate alliance with the often overlooked yet indispensable element of air. Infusing visibility, sound, and tactile perception into air’s intangible presence, the artwork accentuates the global reliance on this finite resource, affected by ecological shifts. 

This is Air: The National Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon - Sheet3
This is Air_Image rendering_©Nic Brunsdon

The global pandemic served as a source of conceptualisation for the project where the architect saw a paramount significance in the very air that was respired. This idea was imbibed in the installation as it inhales and exhales exerting on the unseen element ; the Air. Throughout the day, the structure releases bursts of air, consistently and rhythmically creating a cloud life form, and then gradually taking shape again. As a n embodiment of economic, social and ecological realities, the quality of air diverges between universal presence and its purity. 

This is Air_Image rendering_©Nic Brunsdon

Within the immersive showcase that oscillates between exhalations, there are nuances that inspires one to contemplate about humanityls symbiotic link with the unnoticed entity. As the NGV prepares to unveil Nic Brunsdon’s commissioned work, there is an air of anticipation within the architectural and artistic spheres. With his unique blend of visionary design that invokes a profound connection to cultural contexts, Brunsdon’s contribution is expected to bring about a transformative addition to the NGV’s legacy of inviting visitors to perceive architecture through the lens of art and experience the interplay between the two in an entirely new light.

Reference List 

‘This is air:’ The National Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon, Newzsnoop. Available at: (Accessed: 14 August 2023).

Bustler (n.d.). The National Gallery of Victoria announces an ‘airy’ new commission from architect Nic Brundson. [online] Bustler. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2023].

Anon, (2023). This Is (This Is) Air – [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2023].

ArchDaily. (n.d.). Gallery of ‘This is Air:’ The National Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon – 2. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2023].

‌iwano@_84 (2023). ‘This is Air:’ The Countrywide Gallery of Victoria Announces Architecture Commission by Nic Brunsdon. [online] Mcmahonfivedesign. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2023].

Broadsheet. (n.d.). The NGV, Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and Imax Melbourne to Reopen on June 27. [online] Available at:


Afnan Ashraf is an artist, architect and an educator. She is the principal architect at TwoPoints ArtLab and a founding member of Coearth Foundation. Afnan excels in developing brand identities, conceptual storylines, and website content. She emphasises on a research based approach fueled through collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.