Friday, August 30, 2013

Stainforth Court Public Housing Project - Hobart

Stainforth Court is a public housing complex comprising of four tower blocks located on the fringes of Hobart CBD, in the suburb of New Town.  It's within close proximity to the CBD and the towers are surrounded by parkland and are within walking distance to Cornelian Bay with views overlooking the River Derwent and the Tasman Bridge. Designed in 1958 Stainforth Court stands as Tasmania’s last remaining example of public housing tower block design.

The way the blocks are set off from the main highway and surrounded by parkland remind me of many European examples from the mid 20th century.  When I view Stainforth Court from a design perspective I think of Modernist Architects like Le Corbusier and the influences that the Public Works Department must have applied from the latest design methodologies from overseas.

On a side note, whilst I was observing the exterior spaces from the unit balconies, the fact that none of the balconies were looking into or directly at another units was a smart design and provided privacy.  Each unit had sweeping viewpoints with many of the higher floors providing views of the Derwent River to the East and Mt Wellington to the West.

In 2009 the State Government put forward an option to demolish Stainforth Court, as well as attempting to sell on the complex, but by late 2012 the State Government announced that it would redevelop the site, refurbishing the complex at a cost of $5 million. Work started mid this year and is expected to be completed by early 2014.

Whilst the majority of Government housing projects in Tasmania are single stand-alone dwellings, Stainforth Court was a new way of design in Hobart,  providing four identical tower blocks. Prior to the 1950s many Tasmanian houses were designed on the formula of prefabricated homes on a quarter acre blocks.  Many of Hobart’s outer suburbs are the result of a Post War housing boom, dramatically redefining the visual landscape of Hobart.  Prior to Stainforth Court being built, Windsor Court was another example of Modernist public housing designed in the same vein, having housed over 100 residents; the complex was demolished early this century.There were several fascinating plans for tower blocks by the State Government during the mid 20th century in Hobart, but these didn't see the light of day due to budget constraints.

Hobart’s visual landscape and boundaries were changing dramatically after the Second World War.  Major arterial highways, such as the Brooker Highway were constructed to facilitate the massive population boom, and industry expansion.Hobart has are large stock of Modernist units having been built from the 1930's right up until the late 1970s. Many fine examples of Art Deco units and mid century tower blocks can be found in suburbs close to the CBD like Sandy Bay, Battery Point, and West Hobart.  These tower blocks I believe provide us not only with a historical reference but just can also point Government, designers, urban planners and Architects in the direction in relation to contemporary issues surrounding urban sprawl and having a vibrant city heart.

The series of photographs I've captured were taken just a days before construction commenced, I wasn't sure what I would find once inside the complex, but as the photographs highlight there were a lot of interesting spaces and features to document.  The planning took months, the photographs were captured over several days.  I hope you enjoy this photography project as much as I enjoyed documenting Stainforth Court. Drop me a line, I would love to hear your stories and comments.  Leave comments below, or head over to my Facebook page to stay updated with more of my upcoming projects. Click here to go to my Facebook page.


  1. Five million sounds a pretty reasonable figure. If it is done well and with such good bones, it should look great once done. I can see it being a place in very high demand.

  2. So glad I found your blog a while ago! Really enjoy your photos and appreciation of Tasmanian modernist architecture :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by Robyn, keep an eye out for my future posts as I have many more projects on the go.

  3. I noticed they had a lot of cranes and things there a few months back, will have to go have another look when it's there much outdoor space for tenants though? it looks kind of small

  4. The majority of Government housing projects in Tasmania were single stand-alone dwellings for a very good reason - noone wanted to live in a block of flats back then, So Stainforth Court was designed with a new mindset in Hobart, and the four identical tower blocks were probably not very popular in 1958.

    I suppose people came to realise that without denser living conditions, the cities would have to expand to areas beyond which public transport could sensibly reach. Le Corbusier was a clever architect :)

    1. There were many units being built throughout Tasmania, before the 1950s too, many such examples can be found throughout Hobart.

  5. Superb range of photos... I lived in Stainforth Court back in the Mid 90's and loved the place.. yes the place had a bad name .. but stuck to myself and all was good.

    I wish you had more photo's of the double room- two floor flats, so as I could see what they have done with them.

    I am planning a trip back to Tasmania in September 2014 and would love the opportunity to take some photo's of the complex and in particular my old unit Number 62... I think it was either C block or B block?

    I have some photo's in Flickr... ... and again thanks for the great photos... brings back a lot of good memories...

    1. Hello smortaus, thanks for your post and glad you enjoyed looking at my Stainforth Court photo project. I recently went back there to document the site after renovations, you can check them out here


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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