The Design Tasmania complex encompasses both old and new: the retail shop is housed in the heritage-listed Price Hall and the museum and exhibition galleries are housed in a new annexe of linked spaces purpose-built for object display.
Price Hall is a heritage-listed site which was originally a church hall. After its church burnt down in the early twentieth century, Price Hall was used for stage performances and affectionately called by Launceston residents ‘The Little Theatre’. At this time in its history its original stained glass windows were bricked up and a stage was raised at the eastern end.
In 1976 the Little Theatre closed its doors and the newly-established Design Centre retail craft gallery moved in. Initially the building remained much as it had been. Much-needed modifications came in 1998-2001 with the construction of the Design Centre Galleries ajoining Price Hall. The Hall was extended at the eastern end to form another room called the ‘Garden Room’.
Design Tasmania Centre
The Design Centre Galleries adjoining Price Hall were designed by a team of architects led by Hobart’s David Travalia with consultative assistance from noted Sydney architect Rick Leplastrier from 1998 to 2001. Where possible, local materials were used in a simple yet innovative construction which is well integrated both with the existing heritage building and with its environs in City Park.
The shape of the building was designed to have as little impact as possible on the existing pathways and structure of City Park while providing a significant gallery and museum space for the community. In 2004, the building was listed as one of the top 1000 contemporary buildings in the world (Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture, London, Phaidon Press, 2004). Read ‘Launceston’s New Living Room‘, an article by Rory Spence for Architecture Media.
The floor is made from locally-quarried Nunamara sandstone. Its wavy lines reflect the underlying geological sedimentary substructure, which forms the margin between the dolorite base of the city and the oldest part of the river flood plain. The slabs are set in the order in which they were carved from the block, so you can see similar patterns repeating themselves in particular sections of the floor.
The walls are cement block covered with unpainted gypsum plaster. This gives them their soft grainy finish.
The ceiling was made using a sprung compound diaphragm beam system that uses minimal timber. The technique is more often employed in boat building. The timber panels are veneered in local Tasmanian oak. Hidden skylights allow daylight to filter through. The light can be supplemented by fluorescent tubes concealed above the wood panels, but we prefer to use natural light plus extra spotlighting where possible.
Architect David Travalia says:
“The aspiration was, and remains … to create a place that is serene, quiet and reflective. The notion of a place that suggests a moment of calm, in a way, like the patch of sunlight in the rainforest, or the still of the last breath of sea breeze.
“This building draws from our collective experiences of other places but is primarily and more importantly of this particular place. We have attempted to make it informed by its place in both time and its immediate surrounds. It seems to me that it could not be built as it is, anywhere else.
“How fortunate … to be at the start of a journey in this part of the life of the city.”