Open House Hobart 2021, Day 2: Aotea House
After our visit to Esmond Dorney’s 1958 Butterfly House, we ventured deeper into Sandy Bay to find a house that was a complete contrast, at least on the surface.
This was Aotea House, designed by Britten Pace in 2020. This house was only open for two tours so we were very fortunate to be able to see it. It’s a three level concrete building on a super steep site at the top end of Sandy Bay.
Open House Hobart tells us
A faceted monolithic concrete form punctuated by panel joints and openings, Aotea House faced challenging site conditions and the design muse of a commanding white gum.
Rather than provide a continuous panorama allied to a homogeneous kitchen/living/dining, the vertical program presented an opportunity to create smaller distinct spaces within a larger volume. These intimate spaces were designed as an escape for family members with foreground relief from the panoramic views of the living room.
The plan is an irregular pentagon stacked over three modest floor plates, with each narrowing and framing views of foliage and close bushland or opening to sweeping views of the Derwent and Southern Midlands. And there are only two right angles in the entire house!
The white gum creates a contiguous thread, cohabiting occupants with rosellas feeding in its leafy canopy, then descending past the striking white trunk of the understory to the forest floor below.Open House Hobart Website
It’s a fascinating residence.
Although it’s more than 60 years older than the Dorney House, I think the concept of making the garden part of the house that Esmond described is a feature here too, with the huge white gum being incorporated into the views from every level of the house.
The owners told us that they didn’t want to live in a concrete box and went to great trouble to make sure the house didn’t become one. There are only two right angles in the house so, as you might imagine, finding furniture to fit has been challenging.
It has huge windows that had to be commercial grade because of the size, and the logistics of installing them sounds incredibly complex. There’s a massive curved external wall that made me think of the Gordon Dam, but is actually based on a mould from an industrial water tank.
The owners explained that they wanted open plan areas where the whole family could be together, as well as little nooks where people could escape by themselves. The result is a very open space, where the vertical elements dominate, with cleverly placed hiding places that I’m sure the kids (and the adults!) would love.
It’s a beautiful structure, with the combination of concrete and timber working really well together.
And the views are fabulous.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
I wasn’t the only person expressing a wish to live here.
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.
They were both very different in look and feel, and Polly had super views of the other side of the Reserve Bank.
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!
When I got the idea for the 50 in 50 project, I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself to take a photo every day with the same lens, and to restrict myself to using only that lens for a whole month to see what new perspectives I could get by limiting my choices. I had initially thought I’d use my 24mm prime lens because, well, because I love it and I could see myself using just that lens forever and never using anything else.
But loving that lens so much, I didn’t think that it would be a huge challenge to not use it. The 50mm, on the other hand, well, that was something different. I wasn’t exactly sure why I’d bought it and I’d rarely used it. I think I’d heard it was a good lens for portraits but, as portraits aren’t a genre I’m very interested in at all, I’m not sure what I thought getting a portrait lens would achieve.
Nonetheless, I had it and it was sitting there in my lens bag unused. Everytime I went to use it, everything would be SO CLOSE and I’d hastily swap it for my 10-22 where I was a lot more comfortable.
I’d set myself the goal of completing a 30-day project with one lens in 2020 as part of my 20 in 2020 list that I write about on my other blog. I realised at the end of October that time was running out if I wanted to get this done. I was on a short break in the middle of a very frantic time at work when I decided, in that way you make crazy decisions when you’re relaxed and on holidays, that I was going to start the project the very next day with the 50mm lens and it was going to be a 50-day project, not a 30-day one. Because 50/50/50 was just so much tidier than 30/50/30.
The challenge was set and the rules were made. I locked all my other lenses away in my camera bag and began. The main rule was that I needed to make at least one photo every day and post it. I didn’t actually have to edit or post it the day I took the photo, as long as I’d actually captured a photo every day. I was a little bit flexible with the challenge and I did allow myself to continue to use my phone for thing I’d normally have used my phone for anyway like casual daily photos and Hobart Street Corners.
So what did I learn?
Not allowing myself to crop the images, other than what was needed to straighten them, meant that I had to be a lot more careful in my framing in-camera. In some photos that were very tight, I found it difficult to make the adjustments I needed to compensate for the viewfinder showing me a slightly different view than what appeared in the image. More than once, an image that I thought I’d framed perfectly ended up with something I thought I had excluded sneaking in on the right hand side, or the image wasn’t framed exactly the way I had thought it was.
It was also difficult to step back as far as I needed to get what I wanted into the frame, so in a lot of photos I ended up getting closer and including less in the image than I had intended. This is why there are a lot of photos from the challenge of the tops of buildings or details, because the 50mm perspective just didn’t allow everything to be included. There are limits to how far you can step back sometimes, because there are things like brick walls or roads with heavy traffic that stop you. Getting run over in the pursuit of my art is not really the way I want to end my life!
Doing this challenge forced me to look at things in a different way to how I would have if I was using the 10-22 lens and trying to get everything in. It helped me to isolate details that I found interesting and to really think about what was interesting about a scene. It often felt like it was a lot more of a personal way to make photos, to find the element that spoke to me within what was usually quite a cluttered space, and to focus on that and to show it from my perspective.
I’d go out with one idea in mind and then, after being in the space for a while and taking the photos I thought I’d wanted, I’d look around some more and see something completely different. I’d then go and explore the things that had caught my eye and end up with a totally different image to what I’d imagined. Light playing on a surface, a creeping shadow, a small feature that I’d never have noticed if I’d been looking at the big picture. Something on the ground. Something sitting on a fence. I’d capture these things as I saw them, and I’m glad I did because, more often than not, I’d come back the next day and they’d be gone.
Of course, not everything worked out as I’d wanted it to, and some days I ended up just taking a photo of something, anything, just to complete the challenge for that day. These were not some of my best moments.
I found I really enjoyed getting up close to a feature and making it the focal point of the image, with a very shallow depth of field to blur the background.
Some of these types of photos worked well; others not so much. I had a couple of days where I’d get a photo I really liked only to find I hadn’t quite nailed the focus, whereas similar shots with less pleasing composition were tack sharp. What to do there?! My choice was to go with composition over sharpness and to remind myself it’s okay to take more than one photo of exactly the same thing if I think it’s going to be a good one. Maybe one day I’ll remember this.
16 December was the last day of the challenge and I’d already picked out my subject a couple of days earlier on my morning walk, when there was great light. I’d taken a few test shots and thought I could make it work on the last day. All I needed was the same light and the same lack of traffic on the highway. Sadly, the light didn’t come and I woke up feeling very unwell. Not unwell enough to not go for a walk but not exactly raring to go either. So I didn’t get the photo I wanted to round the project off. I took a couple of photos while I was out but nothing really worked and all I wanted to do was go back to bed. Which I did.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a fantastic project that, for the most part, I enjoyed doing. Overall, I’m pleased with the photos I made for the project, and there are a couple that are up there with my favourite images of the year.
I’m not in any great rush to stop using the lens and, now I know some of its possibilities, I’m keen to use it more often.
It’s been a great experience for me. I would say if you feel like your photography is getting stuck or same-y or you want to mix it up a bit, set yourself a challenge like this where you restrict yourself to one element. Go out for a couple of weeks, a month, however long feels right to you, and make photographs every day within that restriction. Maybe you could restrict the lens, or the aperture you use (or even both!). You could restrict yourself to making a photo at a particular time of day or within a particular location. One challenge I have always been interested in is the “one block” challenge, where you can only make photographs of things that are within one block of your town for whatever period you choose. Maybe a back and white challenge is more your thing (I did that for a year in 2018), or you photograph only yellow things every day for a month. Or birds. Or cups of coffee. Or sandstone (nah, just kidding, don’t do that). Anything where you limit your options, I think, will help you to focus on one thing and to get more creative as you can’t get distracted by the many other variables that could distract you.
Now I have to plan myself a new challenge for 2021.
Have you thought about undertaking a photo challenge like this? Or done one? Let me know in the comments.
My second tour of the 2020 Open House Hobart weekend was Blue Magnolia on Molle Street.
This is a hidden away little 1840s cottage that is an absolutely tiny space (and, therefore, almost impossible to photograph, especially with a 50mm lens, which is the lens I have restricted myself to using for 50 days, having not considered that this weekend was coming up when I decided to do it). Nevertheless, it has been photographed very beautifully (not by me, obviously).
We were lucky enough to have one of the architects responsible for the redesign, Rosa, to show us through and answer our questions.
She said the building had been two row houses, which as far as we could tell were an upstairs room and a downstairs room each, with massively thick stone walls between them.
Kitchen? Nope. Bathroom? Nope. Basically, it sounded like living there would be like camping in a stone cottage. Now the two houses were one and there actually was a kitchen and a bathroom.
Rosa explained that there had been some 1970s additions to the house, which had been removed and replaced with the new extensions in 2017.
It really is cool how much they have managed to fit into such a tight space behind the existing houses on the street. The bathroom is fabulous, with the clear roof and views of the city.
The extensions have lots of beautiful timberwork and there are doorways punched through the stone walls. The whole space fits together really nicely and it doesn’t feel as small as it is.
Clearly, a space like this has insufficient space for bookcases, so I could never live there. But it would be a lovely retreat space for a few days.
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.
Recently I travelled to Launceston and ended up with a full day to myself. I spent the whole day walking around the city, going to museums and galleries and looking for things that caught my eye.
Here are some of the things I saw. No explanations, just photos.
I’ve been in a heap of fun runs (walks) with catchy names like Point to Pinnacle, City to Casino, City to Surf (okay, I have never participated in that event but I needed three names to emphasise my point).
I always wondered why they didn’t include Taroona to Moonah as such an event. It’s a catchy name AND it rhymes. Win-win!
Unfortunately, the road race organisers have never cottoned on to this one so if I ever wanted to do it, it was going to have to be on my own.
I do like walking and, while the 15 km or so that this walk would be is longer than most of my “long” walks, it’s not a difficult distance for me and I wanted to do it just for the satisfaction of saying I’d walked from ‘Roona to Moonah. So I added it to my list of 19 things I intended to do in 2019 (aka 19 for 2019—I’ve been blogging about it on my personal blog) and there it’s sat since the start of the year.
I was thinking last Saturday night that I really needed to get out and go for a long walk again, take some photos and wander for the sake of wandering. Last time I did that was back in January. After I hurt my back three weeks ago in an unfortunate incident involving wet stairs and slippy shoes, I’d not been walking a lot and I was starting to feel a bit cabin feverish.
That walk was beckoning. My back was feeling okay and it wasn’t going to be stupid-hot so I decided to do it.
I had no idea how long it would take or even how far it was but I had no expectations. I was just going to walk, take in whatever I wanted on the way and the goal would be simply to get there. Whatever happened after that would be fine.
And that’s exactly how it turned out.
I wandered my usual route along Sandy Bay Road, stopping to photograph some of my favourite places.
I took a turn along Marieville Esplanade so I could go through Battery Point and pass by other friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
I stopped briefly at the Supreme Court before heading down to the bottom of Collins Street to take photos for my Hobart Street Corners project.
Finally, I turned towards my destination and made my way up Argyle Street.
My journey took me to New Town Road, through New Town and, finally, to Creek Road, the boundary between Hobart and Glenorchy, commonly referred to as the Flannelette Curtain.
I was in Moonah. I’d done it! If I’d wanted to I could have turned back and gone home again having checked off this mission.
I didn’t want to though. I was way past ready for breakfast and headed to a coffee shop so I could sit down for a break and think about what I wanted to do now I’d reached my destination. It was starting to get warmer than I was feeling comfortable with and I hadn’t dressed for burny sun so I didn’t feel like being out much longer.
I decided I’d at least walk to the end of Moonah, which ended up being a trek through Derwent Park and into Glenorchy itself.
I hadn’t planned on that, but I reached a bus stop with 10 minutes to wait before the next bus back to town so I figured I might as well walk to the next one, forgetting that on this route the bus stops are a lot further apart than they are on my bus route.
Not to worry, I made it in time and after over 16.5 km (I turned the tracker off when I got to the coffee shop but I reckon I would have walked about another 2 km after that) and five and a half hours, I was heading back home with a thing crossed off my 19 for 2019 list, tired but satisfied.
There are some things in the Moonah area that I wanted to check out but they weren’t the purpose of the walk and I can go back and do them another time. By bus, I think.