Tuesday, September 4, 2012

57 twentieth century Burnie Paper Mill buildings being demolished

The former Burnie Paper Mill that started its life in the early 1930s is a vast complex of 20th Century Modernist buildings.  A small selection of Art Deco buildings at the front of the premisis will be retained, but the majority of buildings will be demolished.

Upon entering the township of Burnie, there is a sense that you've been taken back to a time when industry was king. Before you even get close to the vast complex as you snake your way along highway by the ocean, the immense size of some of its buildings loom large, including the chimney stack that keeps a watchful eye over the entire site.

Often when I document buildings photographically, it's with the knowledge that I am capturing their history, their style and their character. Sometimes it's to capture what may be at risk and lost forever, and in this case will be lost forever.  I had many people talk to me about how they used to work at the Mill and that they thought it would be their employment for life. One elderly man who had worked on the site for 35 years told me stories of times gone by and pointed out what the uses of the buildings were for, and then as he was about to carry on with his walk, he said "better get those photos before it all goes"

It was a sombre feeling I had when I was photographing, attempting to portray and capture such a massive complex, with the knowledge that only photos may be the only reminders of what once stood as a major industry legacy of Burnie.

The Burnie Mill begun operations in 1936, and in its prime the Mill employed some 4000 people, with the mill closing down in 2010. The news this week of major demolition works on the site marks the end of an era.  There are many excellent examples of Industrial Art Deco and Modernist buildings on site, and sadly this rich Industrial heritage will be lost forever.  

To view my photographic project of the former Burnie Paper Mill, check it out here on my website


  1. Thank you, Thomas, for documenting these buildings. As you say, it is so sad that the era of manufacturing is lost and gone, even though it involved pollution and environmental degradation. I grew up in Penguin, and remember the smoke, smell and coloured sea (from the Titan plant outside of Burnie).
    Where I live now, in Brunswick, Victoria, we are surrounded by empty factories, warehouses and facades of what once was a driver of the economy. Now it is just apartment blocks. Nothing seems to be "made" here any more. Are there any plans for a museum of manufacture in Burnie?

  2. I don't know which should create the biggest sense of loss:

    Good people losing good jobs, ones they thought would be theirs forever, or
    Perfectly fine and interesting Deco architecture being destroyed. For what?

    If we don't start creating jobs instead of destroying them, our unemployment will climb up to that of overseas countries.


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 www.tryanphotos.com 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 www.tryanphotos.com 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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