Tag Archives: Open House Hobart

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 2021: butterfly house

Open House Hobart 2021, Day 2: Esmond Dorney’s 1958 Butterfly House

Butterfly House (originally known as Young House) at 536 Churchill Avenue is featured in Miranda Morris’ 100 Hobart Houses, which says “Although the 1950s brought a radical change to Hobart’s domestic architecture, nothing prepared the city for the arrival of the sputnik house.”

Butterfly House, Churchill Avenue

Yes, apparently it was originally called the Sputnik House, after the Russian satellite.

In the book, Miranda says that it was built for a Mrs Young, with Esmond noting that “All the warmth and sunshine, the flowers, the trees, the gardens should be as much part of the home as the kitchen and the living room”, in direct contrast to most traditional houses that he saw as cold and dreary, with the beauty shut out. (I can confirm that my house, built in the same era, which I love, is exactly like this.)

The main living area

According to the Open House website, this house has featured in design shows, dramas (The Gloaming comes to mind but I could be wrong because I haven’t seen it) and magazines but this was the first time it was open through this program.

20211114 OHH-230 Butterfly House 536 Churchill Avenue
The view from the main living area

Open House goes on to say

Widely admired for its innovative and authentic contribution to international design, the building’s powerful arching form is equally a response to its site and panoramic views. The walls are predominantly glass, lightly framed in tubular steel with integral diagonal bracing in plane with the glazing. Interior living spaces offer arresting views of mountain, sky and river, yet remain surprisingly private from the street thanks to the wide deck that extends over the carport and workshop below.

Originally built for a single woman, Young House was a relatively compact two-bedroom residence when purchased by its current owners. They commissioned Morris-Nunn and Associates to design an extension in 1999. Taking the form of a new pavillion in the back yard, the project won the RAIA Tasmanian Chapter Heritage award in 2001. The firm (now Circa Morris-Nunn Chua) added an extra bedroom and a lap-pool to the design in 2008.

Carefully restored and fitted out with an eye to mid-century modern style, Young House, like the Tate House in Taroona, showcases Esmond Dorney’s exceptional capacity to create buildings that expand and enhance the lives lived within them.

Open House Hobart 2021
The most recent addition to the back of the house and the pool

I’m not sure what else I can say. It’s a beautiful house and I can see why it is so widely admired. We were fortunate enough to have Paddy Dorney on the tour to talk about Esmond’s vision and Robert Morris-Nunn to explain more about the extensions.

Corridor from the original house to the extensions

One thing I learned was that Esmond had used Caneite in the original house. This is a form of soft, pliable fibreboard made from sugar cane, so it was really suited to the curves of this house. If you look closely at the walls and ceiling panels, you can see the texture of the caneite.

Caneite ceiling in one of the original bedrooms
How great are these colours!

They didn’t use this in the extension.

The other thing Robert noted was the way they had continued the form of the original structure as they’d extended out the back. It’s hard to see this from the ground, but it’s a lot more obvious from further back (see the third row of photos on Robert’s website to get an idea).

The bathroom window

What I loved about seeing this place and Tate House on the same weekend was how the additions to the original buildings had been done in very different manners but still retained the original feel of Esmond’s designs.

I also loved being able to see Esmond’s own home at Fort Nelson (1978) from the deck of this house.

The deck

I mentioned this to Paddy and he said yes, it was like little brother keeping an eye on big brother.

It was a wonderful space to spend some time and we greatly appreciate the generosity of the owners for opening up their home for us to see.

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!)

open house hobart: kaljuvee house

Continuing our Open House Hobart weekend quest to visit Esmond Dorney designs, Lil Sis and I stopped in at Kaljuvee House in Lenah Valley.

This is one in a series of “missing” Dorneys, apparently discovered derelict by the current owners and no one had known it was there.

Kaljuvee House, Lenah Valley

This house was built in 1952 so it’s one of his earlier works in Tasmania. It’s a beautiful space and very much original. The owner, Kate, said the only significant modification they had done was to extend the kitchen a little to be able to fit a dishwasher and more than one person.

The fire place hiding the study/office space

It’s distinctly a Dorney but has some features I’ve not seen on other houses, such as the slats over the front windows, which Kate says serve no purpose at all, and this curved ladder-like structure near the entry door, which she says makes it easy to get onto the roof and remove leaves from the gutter.

The entrance to the house

The Open House website says

This building may be one of Hobart’s great secrets: the house is perched above a quarry face far below the street level and is invisible from any public space. As dramatic proof of the legitimacy of this urban myth, it was discovered in poor condition by the current owners, as no one knew it was there! Now beautifully restored, this is its first public outing.


Approached by a stairway that winds from the street high above, two pavilions – one private and one social – are defined by a partial level change and a butterfly of two opposing skillion rooves. An expressed skeletal structure wraps the portico entrance and shades the fully glazed northern wall which opens to a stunning panorama of the River Derwent and the hills of the Midlands. The open living space (masked by a wall planter Scarpa would be proud of) soars over the garden and into the landscape.

Kaljuvee House from the street

It has a beautiful outlook and a lovely garden. I think I could live here but Kate says she’s not moving out any time soon.

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!

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

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.

open house hobart 2020: part 4

When we last saw Robyn, our entertaining and informative guide of the “What Style is That?” walking tour that was part of our Open House Hobart experience, we were in the car park of the Treasury building in Franklin Square, looking at the Reserve Bank building across the road. You can read about how we got there in part 3.

Some sandstone things on one of the Treasury staircases

Lil Sis and I visited the Treasury complex last year as part of Open House. It wasn’t open this year so we were glad to have been able to look through it then. Today’s visit looked at the outside of the buildings and the many different features and eras of the structures that make up the complex.

Robyn told the story we heard last year about the four columns out the front of the main entrance, which were originally going to be eight because John Franklin was obsessed with columns, but this was never done because of public outcry about the cost of eight columns. (Also, you have to ask yourself, where would the all fit?) Robyn mentioned that the Jane Franklin building in Lenah Valley had similar columns and that there had been suggestions that perhaps this is where the missing Treasury columns had ended up. She also said that she was 100 per cent confident that they weren’t, and you’ll have to ask her yourself how she knows this.

Another sandstone thing at Treasury. Note the vermiculated sandstone quoins in the background. Quoin is a fancy architectural term for corner.

Across the road from Treasury in Murray Street is the former Hobart Savings Bank, which is notoriously known as the red awnings building.

Former Hobart Savings Bank, 24A Murray Street

This bank was founded by the Quakers as a bank that former convicts and other people who had been rejected by the big banks could access. Robyn said that in a big financial crash in the 1890s, this was the only bank that was unscathed because all of the others had made huge risky investments and lost most of their depositors’ funds. This benefited the people who had been scorned by society as they now had all the money and could go out and buy property and start to set their families up.

Up close & personal with the red awnings

We were lucky enough to have a brief tour of this building after the walking tour. It’s now a private residence and is quite amazing inside but I can’t show you any photos as the owner has requested that we don’t publish any photos from the inside.

Looking up

As we walked down Murray Street, Robyn showed as another example of how front walls are designed for the upper class, with their perfect sandstone blocks but when it comes to the sides, anything goes because that’s what the less well-regarded members of society see as they go around to the side entrance.

The well-to-do front

So the walls are uneven with odd shaped bits of stone shoved in to fit whatever space there was. I never knew this and had never paid any attention before. But now I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it.

And the side of the same building

We ended our tour at Parliament House, which I rightly identified as Georgian. (There, see, I learned something.) It was built in 1835 as the customs house. I mentioned that I understood that it wasn’t big enough for its purpose as Parliament House. Robyn said that this was indeed the case, and that the original plans had larger wings on either side, which had been crossed off (in red pen, no less) the design, leaving us with a building that isn’t fit for purpose. Perhaps one day I will elaborate on my plans for fixing this but I don’t think Hobart is ready for that yet.

It was a fabulous tour and I am so grateful to Open House Hobart and to Robyn for giving us this opportunity. It has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about our older buildings and I am interested to find out more. I’m still not going to convert to the cult of sandstone and I can’t tell my Corinthian column from my Doric or my Tuscan ones (sorry, Robyn, my brain just isn’t equipped for this). But I will certainly look at some of these places in a different light as I walk past, especially ones with inappropriate porches! (You can go on Robyn’s tour next year and ask her about those.)

open house hobart 2020: part 3

I had to split this post into two because it’s way too long!

After our Open House Hobart tour of Blue Magnolia, Lil Sis and I made our way briskly to the waterfront, where we were due to meet Robyn Everist, our guide for the “What Style is That?” walking tour. I’d never met Robyn before but I went on one of the walking tours that run out of the company she used to own, Hobart Walking Tours, a few years ago. Robyn now spends her time researching the history of Hobart’s architecture, a subject very close to my heart, so I was looking forward to this tour immensely.

I know bugger all about architectural styles, unless it’s modernism (and even then I’m never really sure), and even less about the features of buildings. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll probably know I’m not a huge fan of fancy, ornate bits stuck on buildings (there is a reason I’m called straightlinesgirl and it has nothing to do with my technical drawing skills, or lack thereof). If you point out a Colonial Classical Federation Georgian Revival building to me, I’ll probably nod politely and start photographing the 60s glass curtain wall across the road. Sorry not sorry.

However, I am here to learn, and I was very interested to find out more about the buildings that I normally dismiss as colonial sandstone relics that would look better with a bit of concrete and steel over the front.

I was not disappointed. Robyn is a fantastic guide; very well informed and extremely entertaining about a subject that could be as dull as River Yarra water. I mean who really cares about whether a column is Tuscan, Ionic or Doric? It’s a column, right? What even is the point of them? It holds up a building. Or a porch. Or nothing at all.

We only had hour for the tour, which, as with any great guide, extended to at least 90 minutes. Robyn explained so many features of the buildings we looked at that my head was spinning by the end. Actually, my head was spinning by the time we got to Dutch Anglo something at City Hall. I don’t think I’m an aural learner. I need to read stuff to take it in after I’ve heard it and, fortuitously Robyn had that covered with a summary we could download from her website.

The round cut out bits here are an example of the Dutch-Anglo something that is also found on City Hall. This one is in Murray Street.

We started out at the IXL buildings at 25 Hunter Street, where I learned what a pediment is. This is a word I forgot as soon as Robyn said it and I couldn’t for the life of me remember it for this post. I knew it started with P and that if you put im- in front of it, it meant something else. But could I think of the word? Absolutely not. I ended up having to go and look it up in my trusty* Rice’s Language of Buildings.

Pediment. Not pelmet. Not pedant.

Robyn explained that this building was in the Colonial Georgian style, which covers the period 1788 to 1840 in Australia. She describes the style as being like a Volvo: Boxy but good. As far as sandstone goes, it’s not a bad style. It’s symmetrical, and very plain, with none of that fancy nonsense that some of the later sandstone buildings have. My straight-lines brain approves.

We then made our way to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which is a fascinating complex of buildings. The 1902 building on Davey Street, I hadn’t realised was built for Australia’s Federation in 1901 and the deal was that if the building was constructed before 1901 the Tasmanian Government would have to pay for it; after that it would be a Federation building and the Commonwealth would pay. Well played, Tasmania, by the looks of it. Robyn explained how this building and others in Hobart, because they were built by people with very British outlooks on life, were designed in very British styles that had exactly zero reference to life in Australia. I wondered if that was a reason why I don’t feel any particular attachment to any of those older buildings.

TMAG

As we walked, Robyn observed how there are buildings where the architects have tossed the rule books out the window when they designed them. For example, the style was for buildings to reflect the people who used them. So the ground floors would be highly decorated with grand entrances to be used by the upper classes; the middle floors, accessed by middle classes, were less ornate and the top floors, which were where the servant class had to go, were plain and unadorned, with the entrances for those people round the back. All designed, she said, so that people knew their place. So when thinking about the building, it helps to know what its purpose was as that will explain a lot of the design features.

Town Hall steps

One story that I particularly loved, among the many, was the story of the CML building on the corner of Macquarie and Elizabeth Street. CML wanted all its buildings to look the same, as you do, and its buildings were made of granite, which no one in Tasmania could afford. So they developed this solution where they would get some crushed up pink stone material from Brisbane, mix it up with concrete, make it onto tilers to stick to the building, which would be made much more cheaply from Besser blocks and no one would know the difference. The ultimate in keeping up appearances.

Here’s one I prepared earlier: the view up Macquarie Street showing the GPO, CML and Reserve Bank buildings

One building I have always liked is the Reserve Bank building a bit further up Macquarie Street. It was built in the 1970s by the Government, and at the time there was no money around to construct a building that would look like the elaborate buildings of other financial institutions that stood on this street. Think Treasury for starters (we’ll get there in the next post). So, said, Robyn, the people of Hobart would not have appreciated big bucks going towards a replica Treasury building on the site and accepted the need for a cheap, quick building instead. Steel and concrete. Bang, done.

I do love these buildings, at least from the outside. The less said about the money-saving open plan designs inside the better.

The beautiful Reserve Bank building on Macquarie Street

However, I have, for a long time, wondered how a building like this has been tolerated in a streetscape of ornate sandstone when other brutalist structures standing close to sandstone landscapes were detested and deemed not to fit and ultimately demolished. Why is this one okay? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they hate it and it doesn’t fit and should be demolished. I did also read somewhere that it wasn’t actually concrete, it had a sandstone finish but I can’t remember where I found that.

A magnificent feature of this building is the “Antarctic Tableau” sculpture by Stephen Walker. I wasn’t aware that Stephen had had a keen interest in Antarctica and had actually travelled there as part of the Antarctic Division’s art program.

Stephen Walker sculpture at the Reserve Bank building

We continued our tour along Macquarie Street with the Treasury complex, which will be in the next post.

* “Trusty” in that I bought this book 18 months ago and until today, hadn’t actually looked at anything in it that pre-dated 1930.