Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ashfield Court - Hobart

I came across this impressive complex of units in Hobart, tucked away in a quite corner, it stands like a P&O Cruise-liner with its sheer bulk and sweeping curves. It was designed in 1960 and stands as an excellent example of mid 20th century architecture.

All of the private balconies open out onto spectacular views of the River Derwent and Hobart. The sweeping verandas, railings, doors, staircase, and even the mailboxes all are period features that are still largely as they were when designed. One of the residents told me that the top floor penthouse was recently sold, and what a top view from the top private balcony one would get, taking in views of the River Derwent, Hobart city and the imposing Mt Wellington.

From a period design perspective it was great to see the railings still in-tact. Although the railings are just one small part of the overall building design, they play are large role in crating the core essence of the building. I also found the white painted timber and coloured panel glass windows interesting. The design of the windows reflects many commercial office glass boxes that can be found throughout Hobart. It was very interesting to see this particular design in a residential building.

The main staircase to the building at the rear is yet another fascinating feature. The use of frosted glass provides functionality by allowing natural light to filer in to the stairwell, whilst at the same time, providing another important visual focal point to the building. I really like how one can see abstract visuals of the stairwells as a result of them being hidden by the frosted glass. Even the rear south facing side of the stairwell, has not been ignored. The more I see 1960s designs the more I see the use of bricks that jutt out of the wall to form interesting an mosaic pattern. The bricks in other buildings (both residential and commercial) I have seen are often textured and are of a brown/gray colour as they are at Ashfield Court

The complex was designed at a time when Hobart, like many other Australian cities, were experiencing population growth, and these designs aided in giving people a way of living that was comfortable whilst being close to the central business district.

These 1960s "semi-hi-rise" buildings are as relevant today as they were some 50 years ago. Although in the contemporary context the political and social debated surrounding global warming have focused attention on sustainable living, there seems a reluctance by the general public to accept units and high-rise apartment blocks,as places to live.

There seems to be an obsession in Tasmania with knocking perfectly livable apartment blocks down, and replacing them with smaller independent homes. Stainforth Court is a case in point of a housing complex at risk of demolition. Demolition and lack of apartment development will arguably create deeper problems in the future when there isn't the room, to accommodate a rising and aging population close to essential services.
Living in the outer suburbs may have attractions, but does this come at the expense of other things that create a quality of life such as the need for more people to drive into the city to do shopping and work, and therefore creating more congestion, pollution, and fragmentation of the Hobart central business district.

If urban sprawl is to be curbed apartment blocks need to be considered in order to ease urban sprawl and give people a quality of life in which city apartment blocks from 50 years ago envisaged to do. Who said sustainability is a only a new 21st century concept? Take a look at around at 20th century buildings such as Ashfield Court for some inspiration of what can be achieved.

To view a photo essay on Ashfield Court click here

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About the project

Join me (Thomas Ryan Photography) on a photographic project documenting Tasmanian 20th Century Modernism from the 1930's to the 1980's. The entire project gallery of 1000+ images and counting can be viewed on my website under art projects. I have been undertaking this project for over a decade.

My portfolio of commercial and art projects can be seen on my website and I can be contacted here as well. All photographs are copyright of Thomas Ryan Photography. Unauthorised use is prohibited. Contact me for all enquires

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