I love the T&G Building on the corner of Collins and Murray Street. I don’t know a lot about it, other than it was one of several buildings constructed for the T&G Mutual Life Assurance Society in Australia around the same period. Most of these buildings were designed by the Melbourne architectural firm A&K Henderson, which was also responsible for a number of other landmark buildings in Hobart including the building that now houses Dome cafe on the corner of the mall and Collins Street, and the Hobart Council Centre, formerly the Hydro Electric Commission, on Davey Street.
Many of the T&G buildings were a similar Art Deco style as Hobart’s T&G and featured a similar clock tower.
According to the sign across the road that gives some of the history of the building, the 1945 City of Hobart Plan recommended that the height of this building should not be exceeded in Hobart’s CBD.
I guess they abandoned that recommendation pretty quickly because by the end of the 1960s there were several taller buildings dotted around the CBD, including AMP (now NAB) House (1968) and 10 Murray Street (1969), to be followed by more in the 1970s including T&G’s neighbour over the road, the distinctive Jaffa Building (1978).
According to a plaque on the wall, the building was significantly refurbished in the early 1980s. The ground floor of the building has several shops and there’s an open linkway between Murray and Collins Street that houses more shops, and the lifts and the stairwells to the businesses on the upper floors and lower. I believe that some of the top floors are residences. At least there’s one. The penthouse apartment on the top floor recently sold for over $1 million.
If you go into the linkway, you’ll find a plaque commemorating the completion of the building in 1938.
When I first saw this, I thought, oh yeah, 1938, it’s not that old. It’s a pretty modern building. But, as I walked on, it dawned on me that the 21st century is nearly 20 years old and that, therefore, this building is over 80 years old. It’s not exactly a young building. (I think that in my mind, nothing has aged since the year 2000, which is why I get such a shock when I see people I met when they kids in 1996 drinking in the pub and turning 21. I genuinely imagined the building was only 60 years old.)
Reflecting on the age of the T&G Building made me recall a comment on an internet post reporting on a building of a similar age in another town that burnt down not that long ago. The person had said that it wasn’t that great of a loss because it wasn’t like the building was 150 years old.
That made me scratch my head. It seemed to be a very now-centred perspective. What I wanted to ask this person was, how do you think a building gets to the age of 150 years if it’s not left alone at 80 years?
If we don’t care for and protect these buildings now, they won’t ever be 150 years old, and If we were to neglect and destroy all our 80-year-old buildings, in 70 years time people would be asking where all the 150-year-old buildings were.
That’s the first reason the comment made no sense to me. The second question I thought of was why would a 150-year-old building be more valuable than an 80-year-old building just because it’s older? The comment implied that if the same building had been 150 years old it would have been sad to have lost it but because it was only 80, losing it was no big deal.
Did the person mean that the longer a building has been standing, the more unfortunate its loss would be? That seemed to be what they were saying. If the building had burned down in 2088 rather than 2018, it would have been a greater loss because it would have been older. I could only assume that this person places greater value on older buildings, for no reason other than they’re old. I didn’t understand that either.
Using this logic, a building isn’t valued because it’s not very old, say 80 years in this case, but at some point it must become old enough that people look at it and say, yeah, that’s important and we need to preserve it. But who’s to say where that point is? If it has to be older than 80 when is old enough? 100? 120? 150? It doesn’t make any sense. If an 80-year-old building isn’t important or significant or valuable now, how it is it that the same building suddenly becomes important or significant or valuable some time within the next 70 years? It can’t be just because it’s achieved the status of “an old building”.
I’d like to think that significance, value and importance have nothing to do with age. I’m sure there are some ugly 150-year-old buildings around that have ended up being preserved primarily because of their age, while there are 80-year-old (and 50-year-old and even 20-year-old) buildings that are deemed expendable because they aren’t very old and haven’t yet reached that point where their significance has been acknowledged—and it never will be because, by the time it would have, the building is long gone and it’s too late.
Dirk Bolt, the original designer of one of those 50-year-old buildings that didn’t survive, speaking about that building before it was demolished, observed that this is exactly what happens.
“It is in a phase where buildings are seen to be too old to be adequate for their task and too young to be part of a significant heritage,” he said. “However, this phase is temporary and demolition denies future generations to judge for themselves.” (The Mercury 21 October 2009)
Often, we don’t appreciate our more modern buildings and don’t put in the effort to preserve them now so that they will still be standing when they’re 150 years old and future generations make that call about whether they are significant. But if we continue to focus on age as a measure of value or importance or significant, many buildings have to wait until someone in the future judges them to be significant—if they survive that long, which a lot of them don’t.
So far, the T&G building has escaped any such debate. People seem to like Art Deco more than many other 20th century styles, which I’m sure helps. I’d say it’s a Hobart icon and I can’t imagine anyone succeeding with an application to knock it down and replace it with a high-rise tower. It’s on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for a start.
Though you can never be too sure. T&G in Townsville, which had a similar design, was on the Heritage Register. It was smaller and built later than Hobart’s T&G and was demolished in 2008 to make way for an office block. This building had been removed from the Heritage Register on the grounds that it had no architectural or cultural heritage significance. Having been designed in Melbourne by our friends A&K Henderson, it was deemed to be an inappropriate design for tropical Queensland and, consequently, was a structural mess that would have been difficult to restore and maintain. (The decision is an interesting read.)
And specifically being an Art Deco building on the Heritage Register won’t necessarily save you either, as the former government printing office in Salamanca Place found out when the Tasmanian Government brutally made legislation that permanently removed it from the Heritage Register so it could be demolished.
No, just being Art Deco isn’t enough. Just ask this building in Macquarie Street that was killed in 1985 and I think is now the Grand Chancellor. (Paul Johnston sums up the dilemma well in this article, where he says, “the generation that creates something is never the one to appreciate it”.)
I wonder what people will make of T&G when it’s 150 years old. I hope they’ll appreciate it as much as we do now. I also wonder if people will still be as obsessed with preserving old sandstone buildings as they are now and if they’ll regret the choices made today to remove some wonderful newer buildings from our streets. (Actually, I really wonder if half of Hobart might not be underwater by then and if preserving our built heritage will be the least of our concerns, a worry long since forgotten.)
Amazing where looking at a simple plaque inside a building can take your mind. For now, I will continue to enjoy photographing T&G and its many angles and intricacies because it really is a delight. And next time I might even take my camera instead of my phone!
I’ve been in a heap of fun runs (walks) with catchy names like Point to Pinnacle, City to Casino, City to Surf (okay, I have never participated in that event but I needed three names to emphasise my point).
I always wondered why they didn’t include Taroona to Moonah as such an event. It’s a catchy name AND it rhymes. Win-win!
Unfortunately, the road race organisers have never cottoned on to this one so if I ever wanted to do it, it was going to have to be on my own.
I do like walking and, while the 15 km or so that this walk would be is longer than most of my “long” walks, it’s not a difficult distance for me and I wanted to do it just for the satisfaction of saying I’d walked from ‘Roona to Moonah. So I added it to my list of 19 things I intended to do in 2019 (aka 19 for 2019—I’ve been blogging about it on my personal blog) and there it’s sat since the start of the year.
I was thinking last Saturday night that I really needed to get out and go for a long walk again, take some photos and wander for the sake of wandering. Last time I did that was back in January. After I hurt my back three weeks ago in an unfortunate incident involving wet stairs and slippy shoes, I’d not been walking a lot and I was starting to feel a bit cabin feverish.
That walk was beckoning. My back was feeling okay and it wasn’t going to be stupid-hot so I decided to do it.
I had no idea how long it would take or even how far it was but I had no expectations. I was just going to walk, take in whatever I wanted on the way and the goal would be simply to get there. Whatever happened after that would be fine.
And that’s exactly how it turned out.
I wandered my usual route along Sandy Bay Road, stopping to photograph some of my favourite places.
I took a turn along Marieville Esplanade so I could go through Battery Point and pass by other friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
I stopped briefly at the Supreme Court before heading down to the bottom of Collins Street to take photos for my Hobart Street Corners project.
Finally, I turned towards my destination and made my way up Argyle Street.
My journey took me to New Town Road, through New Town and, finally, to Creek Road, the boundary between Hobart and Glenorchy, commonly referred to as the Flannelette Curtain.
I was in Moonah. I’d done it! If I’d wanted to I could have turned back and gone home again having checked off this mission.
I didn’t want to though. I was way past ready for breakfast and headed to a coffee shop so I could sit down for a break and think about what I wanted to do now I’d reached my destination. It was starting to get warmer than I was feeling comfortable with and I hadn’t dressed for burny sun so I didn’t feel like being out much longer.
I decided I’d at least walk to the end of Moonah, which ended up being a trek through Derwent Park and into Glenorchy itself.
I hadn’t planned on that, but I reached a bus stop with 10 minutes to wait before the next bus back to town so I figured I might as well walk to the next one, forgetting that on this route the bus stops are a lot further apart than they are on my bus route.
Not to worry, I made it in time and after over 16.5 km (I turned the tracker off when I got to the coffee shop but I reckon I would have walked about another 2 km after that) and five and a half hours, I was heading back home with a thing crossed off my 19 for 2019 list, tired but satisfied.
There are some things in the Moonah area that I wanted to check out but they weren’t the purpose of the walk and I can go back and do them another time. By bus, I think.
On 21 February 2018, I was walking down Collins Street on the way to work. A route I often took. While I was waiting for the lights to change to cross Murray Street I pulled out my phone and took a photo from the corner looking back down Murray Street.
A few people around me started looking down the street I’d just photographed to see what had got my attention. Nothing had. It was just a photo for no reason other than to capture what that street corner had looked like at 8.48 am on Wednesday 21 February 2018.
I posted it on instagram with that explanation as a caption and didn’t think much more about it.
Two days later, I posted a picture of a different street corner and it occurred to me that this could be a fun project: to document the most normal everyday scenes with no aim in mind other than to capture what this moment was like on that corner. I wrote a blog post about it and started posting views of different street corners on instagram almost every day using the hashtags #streetsofhobart and #hobartstreetcorners.
At the start of this year, I decided that the project really had a life of its own so I set up a new instagram account especially for these photos, @hobartstreetcorners, which you can find here.
I thought I should take a photo of the same corner at the same time exactly 12 months later to commemorate the anniversary of the project but I didn’t remember what the original date had been. By the time I looked at the photo to check, it was the day after, so I had missed the opportunity.
I did the next best thing. I went there that day and tried my best to recreate the photo from the exact spot I’d been in the first time. I think I did it pretty well in the end.
As well as the instagram account, I am working on a new blog, The Streets of Hobart, which I’m intending to put all of the street corner photos from 2018 onto, eventually, but at the moment I’m just trying to keep 2019 up to date. It’s very much a work in progress. Do go and check it out though.
I have a few different ways I can walk to work and I like to mix it up so I can find different things to catch my eye.
On Wednesday I was walking down Collins Street and I looked up Murray Street as I was waiting for the lights to change to cross the road. It occurred to me that this street corner would only look like this right then. I was inspired to get out my phone and take a picture looking up the street to capture the moment.
I laughed a bit because people on the other side of the road turned and looked up the street to see what had got my attention . . . and nothing had. I had taken a picture for no reason other than that this was what this corner looked like at 8.48 am on Wednesday 21 February 2018 (bird flying overhead included, not cloned out like I thought I’d do when I thought it was a speck, because it was there too).
I’m going to keep doing this. Taking photos of the most normal everyday scenes with no aim in mind other than to capture what this moment was like.
You can see more of my street corners project here.