Sisters of Mercy

Creation of a series of expansive thematic worlds that promote active learning

Sisters of Mercy North Sydney

‘Sisters of Mercy North Sydney – Our Story’ is an immersive and highly interactive exhibition located inside the listed Federation Queen Anne style Stormanston House. This hybrid space for learning, exhibition and experience communicates the beginnings, characteristics, values and social forces that have shaped the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney.

This project won the National Trust Heritage Award for Education and Interpretation (2019).

The curatorial and design vision for this project interpreted our client’s values and objectives as follows: use ordinary objects in extraordinary ways; reference motifs that provide a sense of shelter and refuge; create an ‘expansive world’ for each thematic area; facilitate a variety of moods and atmospheres to contextualise, frame content and inspire experiences; respect and feature the heritage envelope of the building; and incorporate STEM learning principles.

A variety of intensive, immersive interpretive spaces promote active learning experiences and interaction. Each atmospheric world is connected by a cohesive design language comprising: bespoke installations, materiality, graphic direction, colour palette, illumination, technology, audio-visual and digital initiatives.

Curation and design play with symbols, such as beds, doors and desks, in surprising ways, eschewing conventional religious visual tropes and highlighting the extraordinary heritage values and volumes of the listed building.

The philosophy of employing ‘ordinary objects’ as motifs to communicate each theme was inspired by the simplicity of the tools the Sisters use in their practice to benefit the community.

A mix of non-conventional and surprising components, including recycled items, sculpted illuminated acrylic elements, screens, projections, objects and soundscapes, inhabit and activate individual spaces and form a cohesive meta-experience.

The contemporary design response provides a stimulating contrast within the sensitively, adaptively reused heritage space.

For the ‘Education’ and ‘Health’ spaces the design of interpretive modules is a contemporary ‘re-boot’ of 20th century school desk and hospital bed forms – connecting to the network of schools the Sisters founded and the Mater Hospital they administered. Commonplace ‘institutional’ materials such as tubular steel, opal acrylic and teak are reimagined to create physical forms.

A luminous space that lifts the spirit and aligns with client values has been created.