Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Provisional Heritage Protection for 20th Century Architecture in Launceston

The impressive Art Deco facade (right) of the C.H Smith Building has been abandoned for decades, but may be redeveloped.

What a week it's been for 20th Century Modernism in Launceston! Several iconic buildings have received provisional heritage listing by the Tasmanian Heritage Council, and there is talk (not for the first time) of the iconic Art Deco CH Smith complex, that has been abandoned for decades, being adaptively reused.

The former C.H Smith site was recently given heritage listing and a developer is proposing to integrate the existing remains of the Art Deco building into a new 5 storey retail development. The building has been in a sad and sorry state for over 20 years now. The interior of the complex has been completely gutted and remains open to the elements. The facade has fascinating use of brick and concrete work throughout but remains in a sad and sorry state.
The iconic Brutalist style "Henty House", Launceston

There have been development proposals in the past, but they have fallen through, so it will be interesting to see where this proposal goes and if the development is sensitive to the Art Deco character of the building.

The Art Deco period Princess Theatre

What positive news to learn that several iconic Launceston Modernist landmark buildings have been given provisional heritage listing including Henty House, St John Street Pumping Station, former Paton's and Baldwin's Mill, office, recreation hall and the concrete water tower at the at the site and last but not least the Princess Theatre.

Rear perspective of the massive complex that was Paton's and Baldwin's Mill

For too long now historians that document Launceston have, by and large, focused on 19th Century buildings at the expense of our mid 20th Century heritage. It's about time that this period of architecture be recognised as an important part of Launceston's social and architectural fabric.

St John Street Pumping Station is an impressive 1960s design for what serves as a functional building

Whilst the Tasmanian Heritage Council should be applauded for these listings, the massive backlog of heritage nominations that's in excess of two thousand needs to be addressed if people are to have faith in the role of the Heritage Council.

The bold Industrial Art Deco Hall of Paton's & Baldwin's Mill

The iconic Henty House is a wonderful example of the Brutalist style, and is a rare example of it's type in Launceston and throughout Tasmania. It is instantly recognisable due to it's size and bulky proportions. The detail when you get up close to the building is stunning with the architect wanting to create the effect of timber grain on the surfaces, which has been done with precision. Great news that a Brutalist building has made it onto the provisional heritage listing - possibly a first in Tasmania for such a building.Take a closer look at Henty House through my photographic essay of the building here.

The water tower at Paton's & Baldwin's Mill demonstrates an excellent example of the use of concrete and possess qualities seen in the Constructivist movement.


  1. I hope the provisional heritage listing on these wonderful and diverse buildings becomes permanent. That water tower is amazing. I'm going to have a closer look at Henty House via your photos...I want to check out that woodgrain concrete.

  2. This is an important statement: "historians that document Launceston have, by and large, focused on 19th Century buildings at the expense of our mid 20th Century heritage".

    I actually think colonial and Victorian architectures have long proven their eternal beauty. Art Deco and Brutalist architecture, on the other hand, have not yet quite got there. It probably takes 100 years for a style to be truly loved and appreciated, and by that time, the wreckers have done their damage.

  3. That is fantastic Thomas. The Tasmanian Heritage Council should be congratulated but the backlog is a bit of a worry.

  4. yeaaaaah! at last, some recognition for this kind of heritage building.


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

Total Pageviews