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.
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I wasn’t sure if this year’s Open House Hobart was going to go ahead as normal because of the covid pandemic, but the organisers did a great job in putting together a program that included a mix of in-person tours, virtual tours and livestreamed presentations. We had to book everything we wanted to do this year, which mean no more rocking up to buildings that were on the way to other buildings, and making sure we left enough time between things not to be late for the tours.
After being read the covid statement and being asked to confirm that we didn’t have any symptoms, the first of many such checks over the weekend, we were able to go into the court to go through the security. The tour was run by the Court Administrator (whose name I have forgotten) with the building’s architect, Andrew Shurman and the Chief Magistrate, Catherine Geason. I believe this was the first year the court has been open in the Open House Program so it was exciting to be able to tour the building with the architect.
It spans a site on Campbell and Liverpool Streets that includes the former Blundstone Boot Factory, which was built in 1909 on Campbell Street. Over the years from the 1940s the state government acquired the buildings surrounding the factory and incorporated them into the Magistrates Court. In 1971, the government acquired other buildings on Campbell Street, which were mostly demolished, except the the cafe on the corner of Liverpool Street, and the remaining factory buildings, other than the main building which is heritage listed, were demolished in the 1990s.
The new section in Liverpool Street that was completed in 1995. This section connects to the Hobart Reception Prison in the building next door.
The brief for the 1990s building was that it needed to have the most advanced facilities available, including the capacity for people to give remote video evidence, which is now a protected witness room that people can give their evidence in sensitive matters from rather than have to go into the court room. It has a separate entrance so people using the room don’t have to go through the main entrance.
Another feature of the complex is the incorporation of artworks throughout the design, including some beautiful timber and copper works and the magnificent vertical sculpture that sits alongside the staircase in the main entry.
Andrew told us that the entrance and the waiting area on the first floor were designed to provide views out onto the street and allow natural light into the spaces to try and make it less uncomfortable for people coming into the court. Another feature is the tiled floor that represents the Hobart rivulet, as well as the carpet, which was especially designed for the court. None of the government standard red circles for this place (though I do love that carpet).
We were able to go into some of the court rooms as well as some of the areas that aren’t open to the public like the magistrates’ chambers, the staff amenities room, which is actually the original factory floor from the Blundstone factory, and the Administrator’s office, which has the original hoist from the factory tucked away in the corner.
Andrew explained that they had wanted to retain as much of the factory as they could when they fitted it out as a court house, so there are lots of exposed wooden ceiling beams, joists, and timber framework in the Campbell Street part of the building too.
I asked what determines whether a matter goes to the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court. For offences where there is a value attached, if it’s above $20,000 it will go to the Supreme Court, and certain serious crimes, like murder also go there. For some matters, the person can choose which court they wish the matter to be heard in.
The court actually sits on a Saturday so as we were leaving out the side door, there were people coming in for hearings through the main door, which was interesting.
On the way out, we stopped outside to take some photos from the street.
Of particular interest was the “crown” on the Liverpool street side, which represents the headpiece wreath of the statues of the blindfolded Lady of Justice in Greek Mythology. I had walked past this feature many times without even making that connection. It sits atop a large window that is the conference room we’d just been.
Finally, on the way to our next tour, we walked along Campbell Street to have a look at the Blundstone factory side of the complex.
I’ve now been doing my 50 in 50 challenge for just over a week. This is a challenge where I use my 50mm prime lens for 50 days and take at least one photo every day.
So far, it’s been an interesting experience and I’m enjoying the challenge. I’m pleased with most of the photos I’ve made, though there are a couple that probably are best never to speak of again.
I’ve noticed a few things as I use this lens, which I’m not all that familiar with.
First, and most obviously, is that, as it’s a prime lens, I don’t have the luxury of being able to zoom to compose a photo like I can with my other lenses. If I want less in the frame, I have to move closer to the subject and if I want a wider view, I need to move away. That’s all fine until I take one step too far back and bump into a wall and can’t get any wider. This also means that sometimes the shots don’t capture everything I want and I have to reconsider how to best compose them.
Composition is especially important because of my “no cropping” rule, which means I have to get no more than I want in the frame. The only exception to no cropping is to straighten something that I didn’t quite get straight when I was shooting. Which sometimes creates problems . . . .
Doing this challenge has made me think about what I want in the image when I’m actually shooting it as opposed to going wide and playing around with it in post-processing.
I’m also finding I’m paying a lot more attention to my settings, in particular aperture, rather than leaving it on f/8 as I normally do with my wider photos. This lens goes all the way to f/1.8, which is very challenging to shoot at and not something I’m at all familiar with. It will be interesting to explore this further over the next 40 or so days.
I’ll be updating the blog every week or so and posting my photos every day (or thereabouts) on my Instagram with the hashtag #50in50.
Over on my other blog, Stepping on the Cracks, I’m writing about my progress in doing 20 things I set out to accomplish in 2020. It’s a movement (I guess) called 20 for 2020, which I first heard about a couple of years ago on the Happier podcastwhen Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft talked about doing 18 for 2018. Last year, I did 19 for 2019 and this year I’m doing 20 for 2020 (although I actually have 22 things on my list but who’s counting?)
Thing number 9 is to “use no camera other than my SLR with a single prime lens for 30 days and post a photo a day for the month”.
I thought of this challenge last year some time when I was using my 24mm lens a lot. I thought it would be fun and interesting to keep that lens on my camera for 24 days and make 24 images in 24 days. I never did it, and the challenge turned into one of my 20 things for 2020, for a month rather than just 24 days. At the time, I thought I’d use the 24mm because I love using it.
But I have this 50mm lens too. (It’s 50mm, but on my crop sensor camera it has an effective focal length of about 80mm.) It’s not a focal length I often shoot at. I’m a huge fan of my 10-22mm wide-angle lens. If I’m not using the 24mm, this one lives on my camera. The other lenses are there just to take up space.
Earlier this week I was on holiday. Let’s call it a photo holiday. While I was in a coffee shop, I was thinking about how time was running out for me to shoot with one lens for a month. So in a fit of holiday madness, I thought why not mix things up totally and use the 50mm for the challenge, and why not start right now?
I put the lens on and went out to take some photos. But, true to form, as soon as I got to the location I wanted to photograph, I took it off again and put the wide-angle back on.
No, Barb, you’re missing the point of the challenge.
The challenge is to shoot within the limits of the lens you have. Not to change back to your safety net as soon as you start shooting. So, after getting the wide-angle shots I wanted, I put the 50mm back on and set about learning to use it.
I think what had been playing on my mind was a recent episode of photographer David duChemin’s podcast, A Beautiful Anarchy, called Play the Unplayable that I had listened to the day before. In this episode, David talks about the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett performing the Köln Concert, where (to make it very short) he made the most of everything that could go wrong going wrong, performed an improvised piano concert at the Köln Opera House on the world’s shittiest piano after no sleep, being in a back brace, and no food, and still managed to pull off a masterpiece performance.
The point is, says David, that the best of our creative efforts don’t happen when the conditions are perfect. He says that Keith Jarrett performed this masterpiece because of the limitations placed on him, not in spite of them. The constraints forced Keith to play in a way no other piano would have, and, David says, suggested variations he might never otherwise have considered. Keith played the “unplayable” little piano with its broken keys and non-functional pedals with what David describes as a determination and grit that other performances had never required of him.
From this story, David observes that working with unfamiliar tools and unfamiliar circumstances forces you to play an A-game you wouldn’t otherwise play. He says that a disruption to our script forces us to think in new ways. A broken tool demands new ways of working and, on some level, he says, being close to failure makes us pay attention and focus our efforts in a way we wouldn’t do otherwise.
Perfect conditions are not a prerequisite for making our best work.
David asks us to consider what if the most perfect conditions for making extraordinary things are those where things go wrong, put us off balance and demand more from us? What if the conditions we see as a liability because they’re hard are actually our greatest assets?
The best of our creative efforts, he says, do not happen when conditions are perfect.
The 50mm challenge is my equivalent. Okay, it’s not quite the same. Actually, it’s nothing like it. Unlike Keith Jarrett, I have a choice about my tool. I’m not in pain, I don’t have a shitty camera that doesn’t work properly and I haven’t driven 350 miles across the country and had no sleep. But it’s a lens I’m not used to at all and I don’t really know how to use it. Because it’s a prime lens, I can’t zoom to get the composition I want like I’d normally do, so it’s limiting in that sense. It is not the tool I would usually use to make my art.
It is the tool I’m forcing myself to use.
I have set my constraints and now it’s up to me to create my work within them.
Here are the rules of my challenge:
The 50mm lens stays on the camera for 50 days starting on 28 October. The other lenses are out of sight. (In fact, they are locked in my camera bag so that I can’t just get them out without thinking about it. If I want them, I’ll have to unlock the bag, which is going to remind me that they’re off-limits. I just hope I don’t lose the key.)
I take at least one photo a day with the SLR.
I can edit the photos however I want but only to enhance what was already there. I can’t make up light that wasn’t there, for example. The only exception to this might be to alter the colours to make a more coherent image or change it to black and white.
The basic composition has to be right within the original shot. I can straighten and crop minimally to make up for my crappy eyesight or to make up for not being able to get closer or further away because of limitations of the site (e.g. oncoming traffic, large holes in the ground, or other risks to my life if I moved closer, but people looking at me oddly for taking a photo doesn’t count). Apart from that, I can’t use cropping to make up for not having been in the right position. I need to move to get the angle I want, not rely on post-processing to do that.
Cloning is okay if I couldn’t have avoided including the thing to be cloned in the image. But if it’s careless composition, for example, because I didn’t check the edges of the frame and there are stray tree branches in the image, they stay as a lesson to me to be more careful next time.
I can use my phone for photos to record my daily life,street corners project and other things that I regularly document with my phone.
I share one photo from every day. I don’t have to share it on the day I made it, but I need to have 50 photos from 50 individual days between today and 16 December.
I’m going to post the photos on my Instagramwith the hashtag #50in50 (which looks like it’s actually a hashtag about running!) and I’ll aim to update at least once a week on the blog.
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.
Esmond Dorney House, 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.
The flat out the back
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.
There are many cool things about this house. The view, obviously. (Not the wind.)
How good is the view
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.
In and out
Open House Hobart 2019:
1 walking tour
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.
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.
Treasury main entrance, 21 Murray Street (1841)
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.
Treasury, Macquarie Street (L-R: Supreme Court Building (1860), Public Offices (1914), Supreme Court (1824))
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.
Three of the four columns at the entry
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.
Changing floor levels
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.
Stairs in the main building
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.
Repository of State Secrets, no doubt
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.)
Seals of approval
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.)
Random collection of poles. Don’t ask me where we are. I’m totally lost by this point.
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.
I think this was a clock from the Hobart Railway Station
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.
Continuing our Open House Hobart adventures, Lil Sis and I managed to tear ourselves away from the mid-century marvellousness that was the Riverfront Motel and drove back towards town.
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.
Penitentiary Chapel from the courtyard
The judge’s table
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.
Now you know . . .
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.
Part of the chapel, with the obligatory person in a red top getting in the photo. The solitary confinement cells are underneath these pews.
Just the thing for a bit of Sunday morning hymn singing
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.
The Red Awnings in 2016
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.
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.
Riverfront Motel from the river side
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 underwayto 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.
Corner of the restaurant
Cool planter box
Behind the reception desk
Check out the bathroom floor!
Bathroom floor in one of the rooms
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 . . .