Monthly Archives: November 2021

open house hobart: macquarie street

Open House Hobart weekend was held on 13-14 November, with a fascinating range of buildings open for tours and drop-ins.

After our Taroona Esmond Dorney buildings, we were supposed to take part in the Modern Hobart City walking tour, which I was super excited about, but unforeseen circumstances meant it had been cancelled earlier in the week, so we had some free time before our next Dorney house. We decided to wander along Macquarie Street and see what we could find

The National Mutual Life Building at 119 Macquarie Street was open, we think for the first time

119 Macquarie Street. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it on the day, so here’s one I prepared earlier

Open House tells us this about it.

This six-storey neo-Gothic sandstone building in the centre of Hobart has been a prominent part of the Hobart city landscape since its construction in 1906. The National Mutual Life Association (founded in Melbourne in 1869) commissioned prominent Hobart-born architect, Alan Cameron Walker, to design their Hobart offices. Walker was born in 1865 and apprenticed under the well-known Tasmanian architect, Henry Hunter. The stone facade and carved bas-reliefs of the building are of particular note, and feature a lion and unicorn flanking the company logo above the entrance on Macquarie Street. The building now houses a number of commercial tenancies, with the third and fourth floors being occupied as a residence.

I’ve always been intrigued by this building, especially the turret on the roof, and it sits nicely next to one of my favourite buildings, the Reserve Bank.

It was raining when we got to the roof top and my first impression was of the brilliant view it had of the two beautiful modernist buildings on the corner of Murray and Collins Street, Jaffa and the T&G Building. Who cares about the rain here?

Superb view from the roof

I was so excited by the view I almost forgot about the turret (I don’t know if that’s the actual term, I’m sure it’s not).

It also sits nicely against the Reserve Bank so you can reach out and touch it.

Should you wish to do so.

A different perspective of the Reserve Bank building

There was once a rooftop cafe up here, complete with deck chairs, which looks like it would have been a fabulous use of the space. We need more rooftop cafes!

The top floor of the building had recently been vacated and was empty, ready for refurbishment.

How good is this skylight?!

It was such a wonderful space and very hard not to notice all the lead lighting throughout, which is thought to have been an 1970s addition.

Every house needs a door with a ship on it

I wasn’t the only person expressing a wish to live here.

Wonderful colours
The door handles embossed with the National Mutual Life logo that also sits above the front door

On the other side of the Reserve Bank were two apartments at 105 Macquarie Street, “Polly” and “Henry”, which are recent transformations of former office spaces into short stay accommodation.

105 Macquarie Street. Another one from the archives.

They were both very different in look and feel, and Polly had super views of the other side of the Reserve Bank.

The other side of the Reserve Bank building

These spaces were designed by Preston Lane, who had done the Tate House restoration, and one of the things we noticed was how a huge artwork had been incorporated into one of Polly’s walls. Apparently this had inspired Erik at Tate House to do the same thing in his bedroom in Taroona. It looked really cool. And I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, but this post will give you the idea.

We didn’t get much time here as we had an appointment with another Dorney house further out of the city. Onward!

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open house hobart: st pius x church

Open House Hobart weekend was held on 13-14 November, with a fascinating range of buildings open for tours and drop-ins.

After our visit to the Esmond Dorney-designed  Tate House in Taroona, Lil Sis and I called in to St Pius X Catholic Church, also designed by Dorney, consecrated in 1957.

Phone photo of St Pius X Church from 2018

According to the flyer they handed us when we arrived, the first Mass held in Taroona was at the old public hall in 1949. Before that, residents had to travel to Mass outside the area, which was difficult as not many owned cars and petrol was still rationed.

Pius X Church interior

The parish community made plans to build a church in 1949. They obtained the site from the Trustees of Sisters of Charity in 1955 and set out to raise funds. Eventually they obtained a £4000 loan, managed to raise another £1000, and looked for an architect who would taken the project. Esmond Dorney was the only one prepared to consider it.

View of both sides

It has features that you might associate with Dorney, most notably the curved tubular steel framing. There’s a lot of varnished plywood panels and glass. You might notice that the windows on the bush-facing side are wide and clear to allow in the views of the bush, and on the other side it’s the wood panels that are wider and the frosted glass panels are narrower. It’s an interesting twist on an otherwise symmetrical design.

Pius X Church – the non-bush facing side

In the brochure, Parish Priest Father Nichols says, “It could be argued that it doesn’t have the traditional appearance of a church building, however its shape and form provide a very fine “skin” for the assembled church to carry out its worship”.

Detail of the carpet

Fittingly, in 2017 the Australian Institute of Architects awarded its award for Enduring Architecture to Esmond Dorney for his design of this church. It’s listed in the Register of the National Estate and is considered to be the first modernist church in Australia.

Looking back at the front wall

I’ve walked past it many times and tried to photograph it from the outside with limited success (the photo at the top!) but this is the first time I’d been inside. It’s certainly a stunning venue and I think our community is very lucky to have it.

The ceiling above the back wall

open house hobart: tate house

I had been anticipating the 2021 Open House Hobart weekend for weeks. As usual, my sister and I had booked in for several tours across Saturday and Sunday, and we had a lot to look forward to.

Our first tour on Saturday was Tate House in Taroona, which was built in 1958, designed by Esmond Dorney for the current owner, Erik’s, uncle, who lived there for many years.

Tate House in June 2020 before the restoration work

The Open House description of the house says

Tate House sits above the river’s edge with 180 degree views of the estuary, along with the hills and bays of the far shore. The immediate foreground, originally beach and boat sheds, is now slightly masked by later development. The house is a continuation of the form and structural technology of the Dorney Shack (1957) and the Young (Butterfly) House of 1958. With immediate street frontage, this design needed to find a different solution from those two projects to ensure privacy in a developing suburban context. Allied to some solid panels, a slightly deeper setback allows the garden to mask the glazing. The form itself responds directly to the hills on the eastern horizon, offering a relaxed logic to the street view.

In 2019, the current owners commissioned Preston Lane Architects to carefully restore the existing house and update the interiors, maintaining the essence of the original building while also accommodating the changing needs of the clients, allowing them to age in place.

Tate House, November 2021

Paddy Dorney spoke of how much planning went into the restoration project and of the passion of Erik, the architects, and the builders, who all worked to maintain the integrity of Esmond’s design while updating it to reflect the occupants’ needs. He noted the care and attention that James, the builder, who was also there for the tour, had put into the project.

The front of the house

The downstairs section wasn’t part of Esmond’s original design and it was deliberately designed to not look like his work.

The new, simple staircase

Part of the redesign was to include an internal staircase, so that people didn’t have to go outside to get upstairs. It’s a beautiful addition, sympathetic to the design but not trying to replicate it.

Use of glass to extend the partition walls on the upper level to the ceiling

I walk past this house often and never knew the downstairs area was there because you can’t see it from the street. I’d thought the house looked so small and wondered how it was possible to live in it.

Tate House entrance

Learning about the flow-on design from the shack and the way downstairs was incorporated later, it all made sense.

Back deck

I’d also been watching the renovations from the outside and, even though my first impression when seeing the house stripped back was to be horrified, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would do anything to a Dorney house that hadn’t been well considered and in keeping with its origins.

The refreshed kitchen windows from the back deck

It’s beautiful work and the house looks wonderful. It’s a simple but very clever design with lovely attention to detail. It seems to just fit the space perfectly as well as take advantage of the wonderful river views.

Back deck detail