Hedberg Creative Arts Complex opens in Hobart, Tasmania

Tasmania’s Hedberg bridges old and new through culture and architecture

The Hedberg, Hobart’s sparkling new creative arts complex, celebrates its opening in Tasmania with design by local studio Liminal and Singapore-based WOHA

After eight years of construction, The Hedberg – Hobart’s gleaming new creative arts complex – is finally ready for its big shot. Situated on the corner of Campbell and Collins Streets in the city’s Old Wharf area, the complex is a clever fusion of old and new – the former being the 1837 Theater Royal, the oldest operating theater in Europe. Australia, and the 1926 Hedberg Garage, a heritage site. car showroom and mechanical warehouse, and the new, head-turning six-storey block, co-designed by local studio Liminal and Singapore-based WOHA.

Like the interlocking voids of Jenga, the disparate buildings are linked in an organic group of recital hall, drawing room, theater studio and theater alongside a program of cascading foyers. The design, says Liminal co-founder Elvio Brianese, “responds to its urban and heritage context, rather than expressing the complex as a single object.”

This also explains the skilful use of symbolism throughout the project. “Storytelling is an important design strategy,” says co-founder Peta Heffernan. The irregular accordion-shaped aluminum folds of the facade cladding, for example, evoke not only stage curtains and musical notation, but also the opalescent shimmer of Tasmanian abalone shells, a Palawa staple, the original people of the island.

Public hearths, anchored with rugs woven in warm reds and yellows by Tasmanian First Nations artist Michelle Maynard, represent traditional gathering spaces where celebrations took place and stories were told around hearths. The rooftop gardens, meanwhile, offer views of Hobart’s modern waterfront, bristling with restaurants, galleries and hotels, and the ancient River Derwent.

This subtle but effective nod to history goes deep into the bones of The Hedberg, most notably in the use of local Blackwood wood that references the terroir, alongside old bricks and shards of coins and pottery discovered on site during excavations and now part of the floors and walls. As Richard Hassell, WOHA’s lead architect, points out: “Our response to heritage has been to use contemporary materials that are different from the historic fabric, but also harmonize with it. §

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