Sunday 10 November 2019
After our tour of the Treasury complex and a quick sugar hit, Lil Sis and I made the drive out to Sandy Bay to visit our second Dorney house of the weekend, the house at Fort Nelson.
Perched on top of one of the fort’s old gun emplacements, this iconic 1978 house is a must-see on the Open House weekend. It’s about a 15-minute walk uphill, or you can wait for the shuttle bus, which is what we did.
I think I have this bit right. The first house that Esmond Dorney built on the site was in 1949, on the southern gun emplacement.
He built a second house in 1966 on the current site, which burnt down in a bushfire caused by a neighbour’s burn-off. He replaced that in 1978 with the current house, which survived another bushfire that burnt the 1949 building.
The ABC recently featured the house in a tour with architect Leigh Woolley.
There are many cool things about this house. The view, obviously. (Not the wind.)
The hidden bedrooms. And of course, the sunken lounge, the conversation pit.
It was a fabulous way to end the weekend, sitting in the conversation pit listening to Paddy Dorney speak about his father’s work.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising it and all the fabulous volunteers on the weekend. It was one of the highlights of the year for me.
Open House Hobart 2019:
- 11 buildings
- 1 walking tour
- 48,000 steps
- 392 photos
PS: A couple of weeks after the weekend, I found out one of my photos of the Riverfront Motel had been chosen as a winner of the OHH Instagram competition, which was very exciting and entirely unexpected.
Sunday 10 November 2019
After realising we wouldn’t have time to get into the old Hobart Savings Bank on Murray Street, Lil Sis and I made our way over the road to the Treasury Complex.
There are eight buildings in the complex, dating from 1824 to 1940. Before our tour, we went into the 1860 courthouse in Macquarie Street, which was used for civil cases until 1980 when the Supreme Court complex was completed. It’s now preserved as a model courtroom.
The oldest building on the site is the 1824 courthouse, which is on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. The second oldest is at the other end of the block, the 1835 Police and Convict Building. The main building in between those two was built in 1841 to join them together. This is where the tour started. Our guides informed us that there were supposed to be eight columns at the front of the building, but there was something of an outcry over using public money for such frivolities, so they cut it back to four.
Our guides also explained that, as we would be moving between buildings, we needed to look out for changing floor levels, which would indicate when we were changing buildings.
The 1824 building was designed by the Superintendent of Stonemasons, William Hartley Wilson, who my research tells me, also designed the Scots Church in Bathurst Street. Oh, and some old sandstone bridge in Richmond. William’s grandson, David, was the architect of a number of high profile buildings in Hobart, including the building that didn’t fit in that I mentioned in the Supreme Court post.
The building has served other purposes since the Court moved out in 1860, including Post Office and Telegraph Office (1860-1906), Tax Office and State Savings Bank (1906-1914) and the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau (1914-1975). Since 1975, it has been used as offices for Treasury and there is very little trace of its original use as a courtroom.
The 1914 building, which sits next to the 1824 building on Macquarie Street, is an office building, constructed at the same time the 1824 building was redesigned to house the tourist bureau, which included quite significant alterations to its exterior. As we wound our way through the buildings I found myself entirely disoriented and not being sure exactly where I was. The changing floor levels and the different window widths were the main clues to us having entered a different building. I can certainly understand why many people consider it unsuitable as a modern office and our guides said that sometimes it was very hard to find people. (I’m sure I’d be quite happy if no one could find me but I’m also sure my manager would think otherwise.)
We went through some of the senior managers’ offices and ended up in the 1835 Police and Convict Offices on the Davey Street side of Murray Street. It was designed by John Lee Archer. There were cells in this building originally, which were removed in 1860 and replaced with cast-iron columns and steel girders for support, so there is this bizarrely random collection of poles mingling with office partitions on the ground floor. (Refrains from commenting about office cubicles and gaol cells.)
This was around the time the Police and Gaols Department moved to the Campbell Street Penitentiary, and Treasury moved in. Last year, the basement of this building, which contained a watch house, was also open to the public but not this year so we were glad to have seen it when we had the chance.
We left via the main door of the 1835 building back into Murray Street, having had our question of “what is behind that door?” finally answered.
The Government is planning on divesting (their words not mine) the complex so there was information available on this process in one of the ground floor rooms so we went back inside to have a look at that and find out what was happening. We were glad to have done the tour today because who knows what the future holds for the complex.
Sunday 10 November 2019
We had some time before our next tour, so we stopped at the old Penitentiary Chapel on the corner of Campbell and Brisbane Streets. I did a tour there back in 2013, and, if you recall my post about the Supreme Court, you might remember that this complex, which was previously a prison and has mostly been demolished, housed the criminal division of the Supreme Court from 1860 until 1975, when the new court was opened.
The chapel was designed by John Lee Archer, who was responsible for many Tasmanian Government buildings in the 19th Century, including Customs House, which is now Parliament House.
The solitary confinement cells underneath the pews in the chapel and the execution yard serve as a reminder of the brutal past of this place.
It’s not a comfortable feeling to be there. It feels incongruous that a place of worship could also be a place where humans were treated so inhumanely and, in some cases, executed. The chapel was never consecrated for exactly this reason.
I didn’t like being there and I’m glad we didn’t stay long.
After finding a lucky car spot in town (no, I’m not telling you where), we had a quick lunch stop and walked up to Murray Street to the former Hobart Savings Bank. This building is well-known in Hobart as the “red awnings” building and let’s not go there other than I thought the red awnings were great, and seriously, Hobart council, find something more important to focus your energy on.
At least sanity, eventually, prevailed and the red awnings returned.
The building was only open today and we thought we could go in there before our booked tour of the Treasury complex. Wrong! This is now a private home and the line to get in was back up to Macquarie Street and moving very slowly. Much as we wanted to go, we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to wait in line and get to our tour. So we went into the Treasury buildings that were open outside the tour instead.
to be continued . . .
The former Mercury Building, Macquarie Street, Hobart.
Sunday 10 November 2019
I was really looking forward to our first port of call today, having seen photos from people who had been there on instagram yesterday. This was the Riverfront Motel at Rosetta.
Built in the 1960s in classic mid-century style as a stopover for travellers on the newly built Brooker Highway. Major extensions to the dining room were completed in 1970, with a bar, function space, dance floor and additional story added. Now owned by the Beck family, the motel is gradually undergoing sensitive refurbishment to retain many original features, including a large mid-century guest house and Glenorchy’s iconic Royal Arch.
Say no more. You already want to go and stay there don’t you? Hell, I want to go and stay there. Let’s all go! Let’s stay in the mid-century guest house and have a mid-century party! Seriously, how fun would that be?
The Royal Arch is brilliant. It was built in 1954 by the EZ Company to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Tasmania. It was meant to represent the industrial nature of the Glenorchy area, and was funded by local businesses including Cadbury. It was temporarily installed at the lower end of Liverpool Street for Her Majesty’s visit and then moved to the Berriedale Reserve. In 1961 it landed at the motel and has been there ever since.
There’s a project underway to restore it being undertaken by the Beck family and Glenorchy City Council, which includes tying to find out what happened to the crown that was originally on top and the “Municipality of Glenorchy” sign in the middle.
Enough words. Photos!
We got to see the reception and bar/restaurant areas and one of the rooms.
Check out the bathroom floor!
The mid-century guest house, aka the River House, is an orange brick house located next to the motel and it is so cool! A shoes-off affair, it has four bedrooms, a funky kitchen, a central courtyard . . . and it really would be fun to stay in.
No bookshelves though so I don’t think I could live there . . .
My Open House Hobart adventure continued with my sister after our visit to the Jarvis House and lunch. We headed back to town to find some more buildings before our 4pm tour.
We started at Town Hall on Macquarie Street, which was designed by Henry Hunter and opened in 1866. The basement space, known as “The Underground” was also open so we went there first.
There was a flower show in the main hall so it wasn’t possible to take any photos that showed the room, but we got to see the council chambers and pretend to be Lord Mayor, so that was fun.
We spoke to a lady who was visiting from Brisbane and she told us how great it was that we still had so many of these old colonial public buildings in Hobart. She told us about Brisbane Town Hall, which was build in the 1920s and sounds amazing. If I ever go to Brisbane that is definitely on my to-see list.
We then ventured around the corner to the Maritime Museum in Argyle Street, housed in the Carnegie Building. It was formerly the public library and was badged as the State Library of Tasmania in 1944, before the state library moved to its present location in Murray Street.
There was a great photo of the building, when it was still the library, which demonstrates that sometimes cars parked in front of buildings, much as I hate them now, are a good thing because they provide a way to date the photograph and a window onto what the living streetscape looked like many years ago. Perhaps one day I will look back on my own photos of buildings with cars parked out the front that really annoyed me at the time, and appreciate the history I have documented.
We were able to see the caretaker’s flat upstairs and the boiler room downstairs, and the attendant said that the caretaker would have to climb up and down the stairs regularly to make sure the boiler was still operating. That was all sealed up because of asbestos. There was also no bathroom in the flat so we were standing round debating whether the caretaker had a chamber pot or used to have to climb down three flights of stairs every time he needed the bathroom. These are need to know issues!
We didn’t really have time to look around the museum in detail because we had our 4pm tour at the Henry Jones Art Hotel. This is within the broader Henry Jones complex in Hunter Street, designed by Circa Morris-Nunn and constructed out of the remains of the former IXL jam factory. The tour was led by the hotel’s history liaison person, Greg (how do I get this job? does the Supreme Court need a history liaison person? I’m sure they do . . .), who told us the history of the complex, the story of Henry Jones and the philosophy of the art hotel.
I didn’t know anything about the place except that Henry Jones ran the IXL jam factory and that the Peacock and Jones restaurant is very very good. The Peacock in the name is George Peacock, who ran the jam factory before Jones took it over. I love the fact that Robert Morris-Nunn built his own office into the complex. What a fantastic spot to work from!
Turns out an art hotel is, well, a hotel that showcases art. Who would have thought.
Greg showed us through the hotel’s John Glover collection, which is housed in the hotel’s restaurant, Landscapes, as well as their Glover Prize winner collection. The painting that caught my eye was the 2009 winning entry by Matthew Armstrong called Transformed at Night, which shows everyone’s favourite Hobart street, Mellifont Street, at night.
Upstairs is a function room that used to be the offices of the factory.
Greg told us the story of Henry Jones, whose parents were both convicts, and who started working at the factory as a child and worked his way up to eventually own the company. We heard how hard the work would have been in the factory but how the company had the philosophy of “a job for life” and built a real community for its employees that included things like a band and sports teams.
We looked at some photos of the site before the work commenced and Greg explained that if it had taken much longer to make a decision to reconstruct the complex, it probably would have all been demolished and we would have lost what is an iconic part of Hobart’s history.
It had all been all in a very bad state, but what they tried to do was retain as much of what was remaining as they could and build the new parts so as to reveal what used to be there. So there are beams and pipes out in the open.
One sandstone wall had been rendered over, and they removed a lot of that to bring the sandstone back to life but kept some of the render to tell the story of the history of the wall.
The carving on the main staircase up to the office is incomplete and Greg said this was because Henry Jones thought that kind of decoration was keeping people from doing real work, so he stopped the worker mid-task and sent him off to do something more worthwhile.
The best part was the story of the decades-old cold jam leaking through the ceilings and walls once the buildings were completed and heated. At first, people weren’t sure what was going on with the smell of jam permeating the hotel and then there were complaints . . . from people whose room didn’t leak jam!
This has to be the craziest building I have ever been in. It puts whole new perspective on the word “random”.
The contemporary art collection is displayed in the corridors of the hotel and we wandered (quietly) around admiring it.
Then it was time for a recovery drink after such a long day before dinner and our final event of the day.
The Dark Sky tour was conducted by Landon from Dark Sky Tasmania, a group that aims to “preserve and protect Tasmania’s might-time environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting”. Landon took us on a walk from Salamanca to the city, explaining why dark skies are so important for our health and for the environment. He said, and this completely blew me away, that six per cent of Australia’s energy emissions comes from inefficient, inappropriate and ineffective lighting.
Six per cent of our total emissions! Think about that.
As we walked, Landon pointed out some lighting and explained why it worked or didn’t work and explained why brighter doesn’t always equal better. Some of the brightest lights make it harder to see than some of the dimmer ones just because of the way they are positioned and where the light goes. There were some very bad examples at Salamanca and in the Parliament lawns, along with a nearby lit up crane and building site.
The steps behind the Executive Building, which are lit with small downlights in the handrails—exactly where you need to be able to see when you’re ascending or descending stairs in the dark—and the lighting in Franklin Square were much better examples of effective lighting. Landon was less complimentary about the Shadforths sign on the building across the road.
The final stop was the Sportsgirl corner on Murray and Liverpool Street, from where you can see four generations of street lighting, ranging from the old sodium lights to the new and very bright LEDs, which, Landon said, don’t light up the places they need to light.
Finally, we walked into the bright lights in Liverpool Street, covered one light with our hands and looked up at the sky to see the one star Landon said we could still see. I couldn’t even see that, but I have crap eyesight, so there you go.
This was an interesting and thought-provoking way to end what had been a wonderful day of exploration, and I will never look at street lighting the same way again. We headed home to get ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Part 1: Supreme Court
After our tour of the Supreme Court, Lil Sis and I had some time in town before our next tour so we rushed through three buildings in quick succession. The crypt at St David’s Cathedral, which sounded a bit grim but turned out to be a couple of small underground storerooms. At least we know what’s down there now.
Next stop was City Hall in Macquarie Street, which is a very cool building dating back to 1915.
Last time I was there it was full of rallying unionists. Today, it was empty. We had access to the caretaker’s cottage and the roof so there were some good views across the city and some potentially interesting photo opportunities.
Construction House on Bathurst Street is an awesome example of mid-20th century modernist architecture, and that was where we headed next.
It was designed by the architects Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon and built in 1956. I recently learned it was originally their offices before the Department of Education moved in. It is known for the massive rubber plant that grows up the staircase and for the beautiful mosaic by Max Angus on the front. I also recently learned that the original building only had three levels, with the other two added later.
My dentist operates out of this building, after the building that previously housed his practice at 173 Macquarie Street (also, coincidentally, designed by Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon) was demolished to make way for the Ibis hotel. I’ve never been as good at remembering to go to the dentist as I am now. I have a theory, after seeing other dentist practices in beautiful modernist buildings, that dentists operate out of lovely buildings to encourage their clients to visit regularly.
Today, thankfully, was not a dentist visit and we had access to the staircase and the rooftop, which was great because of the views and the chance to see the rubber plant all the way up.
We didn’t stay long because we had another tour booked in Bellerive and had to leave for that. This was the Jarvis House, which is one of the many sensational houses designed by Esmond Dorney. This one is from 1959.
The owner of the house, Carol, was recently featured on an ABC radio segment about the house and as I was listening to it, I was wishing I could actually see what they were talking about. Today was that opportunity.
It’s a lovely house with great views (which would be much improved by removing the tree over the road . . . . ) but if you go over the road the outlook across the river to kunanyi is breathtaking.
It was worth the trip just for that and the house was a bonus! One interesting feature of the house is the way the ceiling actually slopes downwards towards the back of the house, which isn’t immediately obvious until someone points it out to you. (Look at the drawing!)
It’s been (sympathetically) extended over the years and Carol has been very passionate about keeping it consistent with its original form. It really is remarkable and I am very grateful that Carol was so willing to share it with us.
So that was our Open House morning, with much more to look forward to in the afternoon and the next day.
This weekend, the weekend of 9-10 November was Open House Hobart, which is an annual showcase of Hobart’s architecture, history and everything in between. Heaps (I have no idea how many because I’m too lazy to count) of buildings that the public normally don’t have access to, or have limited access to, are open over the weekend and you can either walk right in and have a look around in your own time or book a tour for the more popular (or secure) places.
A lot of the open buildings are private residences, so they’re only open for a brief period during the weekend, and for most of them you need to book a tour, so it becomes a bit of a juggling act to work out what you want to see, and what you can see in the times that the buildings you want to see are open. It’s a beautiful thing because there are so many buildings to choose from, but oh so many choices!
Last year my sister and I spend the entire weekend exploring the places that were open, sometimes together and sometimes on our own. (Last year she got one of the highly coveted spots on the West Hobart reservoir tour while I was at the Supreme Court). We decided to do it again this year and, because she was home and I was out, the task of navigating the booking system fell to her. I am forever grateful that she persisted for two hours to book us both tickets to the Supreme Court tour.
That’s where we started on Saturday.
The Supreme Court, you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram, is one of my favourite buildings in Hobart. No, it’s my favourite building. I love it. I photograph it often. It is a beautiful building and it is beyond fabulous that the tour was run by three people who have a very close affiliation with the court: Peter Partridge, the architect of the complex, who is still involved with it today, Justice Stephen Estcourt, and the Deputy Registrar, Brendan McManus. Between them, they gave us a rundown on how the court works and the history of the building. Having been on the tour last year and followed up some reading about the building, I already knew a lot of what they talked about and it was wonderful to sit, listen and reflect, rather than take lots of notes like I did last year (yes, I am that person).
In brief, the complex was constructed to house the criminal court, which until 1975 was located at what is now the Penitentiary Chapel site in Campbell Street and the civil court, which had been located in the 1860 courthouse in the Treasury building in Macquarie Street. It was relocated in 1980 when the second Supreme Court building was completed. There had been plans for a multi-story building on the site but that idea was rejected by the government and Peter was handed the brief of designing a low building made of sandstone. Basically, it needed to “fit in” with the surrounding area (which one of the reasons for the death of another nearby building, but that’s another story . . .).
When I was researching the history of the complex, I learned that Peter designed it using five principles: letting the park flow through the complex, randomness, using local materials (which almost everything is, except the slate, which they couldn’t source economically from Tasmania), providing quiet and privacy (if only modern office designers would think a bit more about this) and construction detail that would assist the builders (e.g. use of pre-cast concrete columns). The intention was to create a complex that was human in scale and that retained the dignity required for the justice system.
Peter spoke about the principle of the park flowing through the complex at length and said that recent plans to create a structure that would join the two buildings so that prisoners could be transferred between them were rejected because that would have completely destroyed the original philosophy of the design. He also described many of the materials in the complex and their origins, which I remember taking very detailed notes on last year. And he spoke of the lengths they had had to go to, to ensure privacy and quiet, to the extent of moving all the buzzy things (technical term) from the fluorescent lights into another section of the ceiling.
The attention to detail in this complex is amazing. Lino instead of carpet under the coat hooks in the jury room so the rain can drop off umbrellas is just one example.
I got the chance to ask Peter whether it was true he had designed the roof so he’d have something nice to look at out of the windows of the (formerly) neighbouring 10 Murray Street offices. He confirmed that this was, indeed, the case. It’s a very interesting roof. I like it.
Of course, no tour is ever going to be the same, so there were things I hadn’t picked up last year that sparked my interest this time. One of the things I hadn’t appreciated was the principle of randomness, which was one of five principles Peter had used in designing the complex. He said if you look around the site, the only symmetry you’ll find is within the courtrooms themselves, which are beautifully designed: round courtrooms and like Peter said, symmetrical. If you know me very well, you’ll know how much I like straight lines and angles and symmetry but I love this building’s use of the round; the “court in the round” being a concept that former Chief Justice, and later Governor, Sir Stanley Burbury had learned about while he was in the US.
And the randomness makes it interesting. The fact that the courtrooms in the criminal court are called Courts 7 and 8 when there are only four courtrooms in the whole complex has to be one of the most random things about it!
Outside, the randomness brings me back time after time to photograph lines and shapes from different angles and with different shadows and light.
It is a wonderful building and one that we are very lucky to have here in Hobart. And I think we are equally lucky to have Peter still involved with the complex even after retiring from practice. He’s very much involved in any decision made about the site to make sure that any changes remain sympathetic to the original designs and the principles under which it was made. Added to this are the judges like Justice Estcourt and Chief Justice Blow, who are also passionate about the complex and about retaining it in the form as it was originally intended.
I felt grateful to have been able to see inside the Supreme Court buildings for the second time and to hear their stories again. It was the perfect start to the weekend.