Category Archives: government

open house hobart 2022—clarence council

Plaque commemorating the opening of the building by the Premier of Tasmania the Hon E E Reece MHA on 16 April 1973.
Clarence City Council

This weekend was the 10th anniversary of Open House Hobart and they had a great program. But I had already made arrangements for Saturday before the dates were announced and wasn’t able to attend anything that day. The only building we were able to arrange was a tour of Clarence City Council Chambers on Sunday.

It was amazing!

Unfortunately, it was raining so I don’t have any photographs of the outside (yet) but the Open House site has some good exterior images.

The building was built in 1972 to replace the older council building in Bellerive, when they decided to move the administrative centre to Rosny. It’s located near other government services such as the police station and the library, and is a short walk from Eastlands shopping mall.

It’s a most impressive building that won the Triennial Award for Public, Educational, Religions and Sporting Buildings in the 1975 Tasmanian Architecture Awards. This year, it won the Enduring Architecture Award in the Tasmanian Architecture Awards, and was shortlisted for the national award.

An architectural drawing titled New Clarence Municipal Chambers
The original drawing from Bush Parkes Shugg Moon architects

It was designed by partners Lew Parkes and Pat Bush of Bush Parks Shugg & Moon in conjunction with Ray Heffernan, Bevan Rees and Charlie Voss, and we were lucky to have Bevan Rees show us around the building.

Bevan said it was built by the firm EA Watts (who also constructed 10 Murray Street). It has two “wings”.

The council administration wing was built with the concept of a shopping mall in mind, with the potential for future extension. The Tasmanian Architecture Awards jury citation says that this wing,

extending above ground over two levels and basement as the site falls away, is of an open rectangular plan surmounted by an expressed steel structure, with a glazed wall surround set back from the perimeter steel supporting columns. Beneath a central lantern light, the ground-level public foyer gives open access to council services, echoing the neighbouring shopping mall. 

The other wing is the area occupied by the council and is used for council functions and activities. We saw the main council meeting room and another large space outside of that, where we could see some of the original drawings of the building and other designs from the architects. It had some very cool carpet too. (Just visible in the photo above.)

This wing is described as “a vertically ribbed concrete masonry structure set into the ground, providing an expression of solidarity and contrasting texture”.

Close up of ribbed grey Besser blocks
Besser block detail

We weren’t able to visit the administration section but were free to have a look around the council wing, which is notable for its use of Besser blocks. The vertically ribbed concrete blocks were made especially for this building and Bevan said he can only think of one other example in Hobart where the same style of blocks is used. (Hint: It isn’t grey.)

Detail of grey ribbed Besser blocks
More Besser block detail

He said concrete blocks were relatively new to the markets in the 1960s, and one way Besser used to promote them was to hold functions for architecture students. Apparently, this was successful in encouraging young designers to use Besser blocks and they became very popular in Tasmanian design in this period.

The bricks are beautiful, and I do apologise for not taking in everything Bevan said because I kept going back to admire them.

A room of grey Besser blocks with a half-round table and large blue chairs. There are round white lights suspended from the celiing and a portrait of the queen on the back wall
The council meeting room

Bevan explained how the texture of these blocks gave them good acoustic properties, which meant that the designers didn’t have to do any further work to improve the acoustics of the council meeting room, and it wasn’t a “big boomy space”. He also talked about how the building was designed to not separate the public from the council so it made it a very “democratic” space. This feel of being close to the action reminded me a little of the design of the court rooms in the Supreme Court, which we visited back in 2019.

The planning officer from Clarence Council was also on the tour and he told us what a pleasure the building is to work in. He said that it’s a testament to the building and its design if it lets you in, and you don’t notice the building, then it grows on you and all of a sudden you’ve become a fan of the space. (*Googles jobs at Clarence Council*)

Blue carpets stairs against a white wall
Stairs leading down from the next room. We didn’t go down there.

Also testament to the design is the fact it has barely been modified in the 50 years since it was built. For example, in the council meeting room, all that’s really changed has been including TV screens and AV equipment to allow for council meetings to be streamed.

A row of four purple chairs agaibst the gret brick wall
Wonderful purple chairs

The purple seats in the public viewing area (how good are they) are thought to be original but no one’s really sure. The longest serving council staff member, who has been there since 1983, has said they were there at that time, so they’re at least 40 years old.

Three white spherical lights suspended against the brick wall
Cool lights

It was also a nice touch that one of the people on the tour had been on Clarence Council in the 1980s and was really happy to have the opportunity to see the space again.

A brick wall with white lights suspended in front, crossed glags, a portrait of the queen and a video camera
The back wall of the council meeting room

I definitely need to come back here to explore the outside of the building.

Swirly blue carptered stairs descending along a curved white wall
Those stairs again

Summing up the building’s enduring architecture award, the jury said

The Clarence Council Chambers is distinctively Tasmanian, while embracing universal modernist ideas. The design utilises local materials, and the careful articulation of building, space and landform to produce an architecture of civic identity—in a manner that would characterise Tasmanian architecture in the coming decades. It is an enduring building representative of an important phase in Tasmanian architecture evolution.

Six white spherical lights suspended agaibst a very dark background. Some ribbed bricks can faintly be seen

Thanks to Open House for making this possible. I’m glad that the one place I got to visit this year was as fabulous as this was!

Advertisement

open house hobart 2021: anglesea barracks

Open House Hobart 2021 Day 2: Anglesea Barracks

Our final tour of the Open House Hobart 2021 weekend was the Anglesea Barracks tour that we didn’t get to do last year because it rained. Last year we spent the entire tour in the military museum, which included a tour of the site via a model that had been constructed in the 1940s.

By the time we arrived, it was starting to look like this might happen again, with a light rainfall, but thankfully our guides decided to press on, with one group starting in the museum and the other walking round the barracks. We were in the second group so we got to walk around.

The site was chosen by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1811, with the first buildings on the site dating back to 1814.

The Army Museum tells us

Fraternisation between soldiers and convicts was understandable as many shared a common class background and also fought together in military campaigns throughout the Empire. With the establishment of the barracks, contact with the convict population was restricted and the feared threat of moral contamination and behaviour was minimised.

The site on top of Barrack Hill, the name Macquarie gave the site, gave clear and strategic views of the river, the settlement and the new Signal Station at Mount Nelson. Its influence over the town was more than military. The barracks became the social hub of the settlement and it was commonly said that ‘the best view in town could be had from the Officers Mess’ (now the Sergeants’ Mess).

The first building we looked at was the Guard House (1840), which is on your right as you enter the barracks. Merv, our guide pointed out the Spanish influence in the arches of this building.

Guard House. Designed by Roger Kelsall (Commander Royal Engineers). Built on the site of prior Guard-houses. It had 4 cells for soldiers that had committed misdemeanors or broken curfew.

The Soldiers Barracks (1847-48)

Designed by James Conway Victor (royal engineer). The third major barracks on the site the building was originally named “Anglesey Barracks” after the Earl of Anglesey. Later the name with its current spelling came into common usage for the whole precinct. In 1901 this building was extended to complete its original design necessitating the demolition of the first barracks building, the “Old Soldiers’ Barracks”. The original Soldiers Barracks, built in 1814, is thought to have been designed by Elizabeth Macquarie.

The Soldiers Barracks (1847-48)

The Field Officers’ Quarters 1814 (now used as the Navy HQ).

Designed by Lt John Watts, aid to Governor Macquarie, or possibly Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie. This is the oldest remaining building at Anglesea Barracks. It provided separate apartments for a field officer and four captains , with their wives, families and servants. It included private kitchens, toilets, kitchen gardens and harness rooms at the rear (now demolished.

Navy HQ

We also saw the parade ground, and the area set aside for memorials and tributes to people who died while on military service. Further round, opposite the Navy HQ is a row of buildings from 1827-1842.

The Subalterns/Officers Quarters (1827 – 1842)

Terrace

The Northern terrace was designed by David Lambe. The Southern and infill terraces were designed by John Lee Archer. This building was constructed in three stages over fifteen years and completed the enclosure of the Parade Ground. The first stage, the lowest of the three terraces, provided a Captain’s quarters and the Officers’ Mess – the social centre of Hobart Town. The later two stages provided accommodation for junior officers. Behind the terrace were kitchens servants’ quarters and a privy. These were demolished many years ago.

A side alley
More side alley

After exploring this part of the barracks, we met up with the group from the museum and they started splitting us up into three groups for the second part of the tour. Lil Sis and I were exhausted by this point, and having gone through the museum in fine detail last year, decided to skip this part of the tour, so we thanked Merv and departed.

It was another fabulous weekend, and we thank everyone from Open House Hobart for organising this event and the volunteers who ran things so smoothly at all of the venues. We especially thank the home and building owners who allowed us in to see these places, take photos and ask questions. We’re looking forward to seeing more in 2022.

open house hobart: princes park powder magazine

Concluding Saturday’s Open House Hobart journey, Lil Sis and I visited the Princes Park Magazine, underground from my favourite public toilets in Hobart.

One I prepared earlier: Princes Park toilet block and Empress Towers in the background

We met Sarah, the Senior Cultural Heritage Officer from the Hobart Council, who told us some of the history of the site, which was built to house gunpowder for the guns of the battery that was built above it. There were a number of batteries built around the River Derwent from 1804 to protect the port from potential invaders over the years, including French, Russian (in the mid to late 19th Century) and German (around the time of World War II) fleets. These include the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay, The Queens Domain Battery and the Kangaroo Bluff Battery on the Eastern Shore, which we visited a couple of years ago through Open House.

Underneath the popular Princes Park in Battery Point, a disused, fully intact subterranean magazine can be found. Built in 1840 to carry 144 barrels of powder, or 200 rounds, the Prince of Wales Battery became a public recreation ground in the 1880s. Explore the subterranean space, designed as a ‘room within a room’ to absorb the shock of accidental blast.

Open House Hobart
Thick walls!

In what sounds like a series of blunders of judgment by people who were a bit too worried about being invaded, there were three batteries built in this area. The first, the Mulgrave Battery (1818), was near the current CSIRO site and too close to sea level for anyone to be able to see any potential threats sailing up the river. The batteries on the southern tip of Sullivan’s Cove led to the promontory being called “the battery point”, which eventually became the name of the entire suburb.

According to the ABC, it’s been described as a “poor pitiful mud fort” that was likely to shatter if fired upon, and as noted, by the time anyone saw any threatening boats from there, it would already be too late.

The Prince of Wales Battery, further up the hill, replaced the Mulgrave Battery in 1840. It, along with the original Prince of Wales Hotel nearby, was named after Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. The magazine we visited was built underneath this battery to store the gunpowder. Sarah noted that it was rather small, able to hold 144 barrels, which was much less than the Queen Victoria magazine on the Domain (which we saw a couple of years ago) could hold. The Albert Battery was subsequently built even further up the hill during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

The Royal Engineers designed the powder magazine, and Sarah explained how it was built on a “room within a room” principle. It actually looked like a little one-room house with a gabled roof and four-feet thick walls that would absorb the impact of any accidental blast. Neat hey. There were steps outside the room leading up to the battery.

The steps that used to lead to the battery above

It was all covered over in the 1860s and the batteries were decommissioned in 1882, when the land was handed over to the Hobart Council. The council redeveloped it into a park in 1934, when the magazine was “rediscovered” and the new entrance and the iron gates were constructed, together with the plaque that has a fairly major mistake on it. Most of the time these are kept locked and Sarah said it’s great to be able to open it up for tours like this. It was an interesting tour and built on some of the history we already knew about the battery system dotted around the city.

Sarah also talked about how this all linked in with the semaphore signalling system used in the 19th century, and mentioned the nearby Signalman’s Cottage, which featured in an episode of Restoration Australia. It would appear I am the only person in Hobart who hasn’t seen this.

A wall of the “room with in a room” is on the left (I think!)

50 in 50: the wrapup

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.

Day 50: 50

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.

Day 2: It’s not centred!

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!

Day 5: Just one more step back would have helped this one

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.

Day 29: Specs in time. I came back the next day to rephotograph this scene because I wasn’t happy with any of the images, and the dandelion had 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.

Day 35: Hmmmmmmm……

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.

Day 31: Some sandstone at some old building

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.

Day 42: Composition trumps focus

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.

Day 10: A re-edit of one of my favourite photos from the whole of 2020

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.

Day 38: I love this one and several of the others I made at the same location

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.

Farewell, Orange Roughy

On Saturday, the Aurora Australis left Hobart for the last time.

August 2018

If you’ve been in Hobart for long, you’ll probably have seen this boat anchored at the wharf. It was, until this year, the Australian Antarctic research vessel, and has been in service for the last 30 years.

April 2019

She made her final voyage to Antarctica earlier this year, and many people were concerned about what would happen to her after that. There were reports that she was going to be sold or even scuttled, and there were calls for the government to buy her and convert her into an Antarctic museum in Hobart.

April 2019

That didn’t happen. The latest reports are saying she is sailing to Dubai and after that, a possible future in Argentina.

April 2019

I’ve enjoyed photographing her over the past few years.

August 2020

The last couple of months leading up to her departure, I’ve made a few trips to the waterfront to capture her for the last time.

October 2020
November 2020

On Friday, I went to the waterfront to see her for the last time (with only my 50mm lens). I wasn’t the only person there.

11 December 2020

There was a group of workers from the dock, or maybe from the ship itself, having their photo taken in front of it, and several other people stopping to take photos and say goodbye. One lady said she’d heard the ship might be going to be used for cruises to Antarctica, and if that happened, we might well see her again in Hobart.

11 December 2020
11 December 2020
11 December 2020

I hear that there was a huge turnout on Saturday morning to see the Aurora Australis off as she sailed out of Hobart for the last time. A flotilla accompanied her as she departed, and there was a lot of emotion in farewelling her. I wasn’t able to be there, but I was able to catch a final glimpse of her as she sailed down the river.

A dodgy phone photo through the trees

I saw her for the last time as just a spec on the horizon and wondered what her future would hold. Perhaps she would have been a wonderful museum, but perhaps it’s better for her to continue her life on the sea. It brought to mind that quote “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. I have no idea who said that but I like it. (And it’s not really about ships, is it?)

A final farewell

In the words of my friend, who had found a spot on the river bank to say her goodbyes as the “Orange Roughy” sailed past, “Go well, little ship”.

50 in 50: week 4

I’m past the half-way point of my 50mm challenge and I have no real wish to go back to any of my other lenses. I’m struggling a bit with taking a photo every single day, but I’m loving the days when I have the time to go out and spend some time wandering round with the lens.

Day 22: Cull the corrupt
Day 23: Morning yellow
Day 24: Diagonal light
Day 25: Mount Stuart Hall
Day 26: Tiny house
Day 27: A duet of daisies
Day 28: Morning solitude

open house hobart 2020: part 5: the bank arcade

The Bank Arcade was our first tour of the second day of Open House Hobart.

What can I tell you about that? This was an absolute eye opener of a tour, which was conducted by the building owner, John Short. John is clearly passionate about the building and in getting to the bottom of its history (literally), so much so he has just written a book about it.

Layers of history unravelled

The Open House program describes it as a “curious building”, which was built in 1805, 1812, 1835, 1860 and 1958. It is a building on top of a building on top of a building on top of a building on top of Hobart’s oldest stone building and was the site of Hobart’s first shop.

During the tour, John shared some very early pictures of the site and described the process he had used to discover who had built it and when, which sounded very much like the way in which a crime would be solved. Motive, opportunity and money.

Proof of John’s theory of who built the Bank Arcade

I don’t remember a lot of it because it had so much going on and there were so many additions and alterations over the years since it was first built. It was an absolutely fascinating story and I can imagine how much work John must have put in to researching the building’s history for the book. His story of his research was just as interesting as the history of the building and his devotion to the work was just wonderful.

John explaining how he had excavated this section to get to the bottom of the history of the site

I think my favourite part of the story was the time the owner decided to remodel part of the building to create four shops at street level, to replace the large showroom it had been. The builders pulled out some bricks, which is probably never a good idea at the best of times, but especially not with a building that was really a collection of buildings smashed together, put up some supports and went to the football for the afternoon. The result: the vibration of a passing tram bringing down the 1860s facade. Who would have thought?

Some dodgy character investigating the understorey (photo by Lil Sis)

I had absolutely no idea this building had such a complicated past and am so thankful to John for taking the time to tell its story. Yet another building I will never look at the same way again.

Small features that stick out

Our final tour was supposed to be Anglesea Barracks but it was raining and they didn’t want to do the tour in the wet, so we spent an hour in the military museum, which included a tour of the site via a model that had been constructed in the 1940s.

Worn stairs in the military museum

The museum is located in the former military goal, which was also once home to the Hobart Reform School for girls. In a story almost parallel to the Bank Arcade story, Steve, our guide, told us that one of the buildings had always been accepted as having been built in the 1840s but the way it was designed, in particular the size of the windows, suggested that it was actually much earlier than that and it was, most likely one of the earliest buildings on the site, dating back to 1814. The official records, however date it at the later date, so that’s what it is officially.

Hobart Girls’ Reformatory, now the site of the military museum

And that was it for the weekend!

Military museum

A huge thanks to the staff at Open House Hobart for organising the weekend and to the people who gave up their weekends to conduct the tours. And enormous thanks to the volunteers at all the buildings, who had to read out the Covid checklist and make sure everyone used hand sanitiser on every tour. They did a great job and the event wouldn’t have been possible without them. So thank you so much to them too.