Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Last week in Perth, the Australian Institute of Architects gave its highest national award for public architecture to Fender Katsalidis Architects, the celebrated practice that has been responsible for some of the most iconic high-rise buildings in Australia. But this time Nonda Katsalidis was heading in a different direction. MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art and the largest privately funded museum in Australia was designed in collaboration with its founder, the eccentric art collector David Walsh. MONA’s very existence is based upon presenting antiquities and contemporary art from Walsh’s collection. As a self-made millionaire, Walsh set out with MONA to subvert the very notion of what an art museum is. The multi-million dollar gallery opened its doors in January 2011 and two of its exhibits give a taste of its distinctive content. One of its key works, Cloaca Professional, by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye is a machine based upon the human digestive system, which relieves itself at regular intervals, producing excrement.Another work exhibited last year was by Greek-born artist Jannis Kounellis; Untitled comprised a steel frame from which joints of beef hung that slowly decayed. Carved out of a vast sandstone escarpment along the Derwent River, MONA’s giant subterranean sandstone walls provide the backdrop for the often provocative exhibits. Its 6500 square-metre underground gallery space has no windows and extends over three levels. Arriving by ferry from Hobart, the museum’s jetty transforms into a flight of steps cut into the escarpment. According to Walsh, the inspiration for the steps was the path to the temple on the summit of the Greek island of Naxos. MONA drew 600,000 visitors in its first 18 months and won the 2012 Australian Tourism Award for best new development. David Walsh, who made his fortune by developing gambling systems, has described the museum as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. Australian Institute of Architects’ jury chairman Brian Zulaikha praised MONA’s temple-like structure. “This beautiful, poetic and still very functional museum is imposing but it’s not unfriendly. You feel like you’re entering a new world of art.” Nonda Katsalidis told reporters that whilst he had been initially “daunted by the personality of David Walsh, who has got very strong ideas …it had been a pleasure to work with him”. “This museum has actually struck a chord and we’ve won lots of awards for all the participants – the lighting , engineering, and the graphics have won awards. It is very satisfying when the whole team gets this sort of pat on the back,” said Katsalidis. Known for their distinctive sculptural quality, Katsalidis’ buildings often feature diverse materials and textures such as exposed steel left to weather or rough-hewn timber. Nonda Katsalidis is one of Australia’s foremost architects. Born in Athens in 1951 he migrated to Australia as a five-year-old. A graduate of Melbourne University and RMIT, his cutting edge high-rise tower designs have won many awards in Australia and overseas. He established his practice with fellow architect Karl Fender in 1996. Katsalidis is also a developer of some of Australia’s tallest residential buildings such as Melbourne’s Eureka Tower which he also designed.