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10 Murray St vs the square

10 Murray

According to contacts in Tasmania, the Sullivans Cove Waterfront Authority is now considering the redevelopment of Hobart’s Parliament Square. This includes the demolition of 10 Murray Street ( previously featured ). As the campaign to save the building mounts, I thought I would take the (late night) time to see what its primary architect, Dirk Bolt, thinks of it all.

I found Dirk, aged 79, in Edinburgh, where he has been watching events unfold over the last year. He was contacted a few months ago by heritage architects working for either the developers or the government, and sent them information on the building, and a few questions – they have not yet responded. Other than that he has not been approached to comment on the demolition.

Dirk’s involvement was limited to the concept design, and the design was advanced and developed by David Wilson after his departure from Tasmania. One change to occur after Bolt left the isle was the relocation of the building.

“This was based on the response to the earlier design by the then Director of Public Works and his view of the wishes of Parliament which, I seem to recall, required the distance between Parliament House and the new building to be increased.”

10 murray street map

It is a touch ironic that the present wielders of power have approved a Citta/FJMT scheme that moves the building mass down to the other end of the site.

Architect Richard Francis-Jones reasoned that the building did not fit, and lessened development opportunities.

“I like buildings from [that] period and that building does have qualities but a city is not about individual buildings, no matter what you think about them, it is how they go together, scale and their relationship with the surrounds.

“And that building fails on those accounts and it inhibits the development of this site enormously.

“But there was doubt and we looked at it closely and our original thinking was to retain it and lower its scale and take some floors off and make it fit better, but it wasn’t as good as we could do for the space.”

Interesting to contrast this with Bolt’s reasoning, in the rather different architectural climate of mid Sixties Hobart. These fragments are of a sketch used to demonstrate how his early design respected its context.

dirk bolt sketch

Bolt: “This design is shown on the attached copies of three of the four parts of a perspective of the parliament square/waterfront area, showing the whole of the Hobart waterfront and the buildings on Franklin Square etc. The purposes of the drawing were to:

  • Show the rich architectural heritage of the area
  • Demonstrate the consistent use of the classical golden mean (phi – 1/1.618) as a common architectural language, providing a bond between diverse buildings
  • Illustrate that this bond need not be broken by the insertion of a modern building.”

Dirk Bolt continues, “I think it is a pity that the State Offices building is perceived as not being harmonious with its setting, whilst the very essence of the original intention was the opposite.”

“Although some features of the design are common in architecture today they were, at that time and as far as I know, new, or at least ‘original’ in the sense that they found their origin in the setting and the circumstances of the design itself.”

Original design features included:

  • floor plate symmetry (natural harmony & structural efficiency)
  • phi proportioned cantilevered “stand alone” frames linking to historic buildings
  • a stylistic rather than material (sandstone) connection to the past
  • a viewing platform and peripheral roof garden of hardy mountain plants
  • a sandstone socle (base) providing close quarters historic linkages
  • medium distance matching of grill proportions with the windows of all the historic buildings
  • skin set back from grille to reduce mass and provide an external gallery for servicing plant and adjustable sunshades

top of building
  • ‘dematerialised’ facades
  • columns with lesser loads housing services
  • a ‘living’ facade – sun blinds and the movement of people on the roof deck
  • a ‘steady’ building – with a repose to match its historic context
  • an attempt to come to a genuine Tasmanian way of building

Many argue that the building fails by today’s standards of heritage contextualism (ie please be invisible), but how long can the current perspectives last? Given a few more years, would 10 Murray Street have been seen as having its own importance, worthy of preserving?

But, as Francis-Jones says, the main reasoning behind the demolition is not about heritage at all, it is about urban design and development opportunities around the new square. The Hobart Mercury sees parallels between this development and the demolition of the Gas and Fuel towers in Melbourne for a people-friendly Federation Square, which the design of Parliament Square mimics in several respects. Except that in Hobart, they will just get the shops and cafes facing a big empty space – the cultural institutions are elsewhere.

parliament square hobart

site plan

In related news, FJMT were recently announced as architects of the nearby Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery redevelopment.

10 Murray Street petition
Save 10 Murray website

Posted by Peter on 18.10.09 in 



Bolt building is not bad – just average. suppose there is a case for preserving plodding english brutalism – but its hardly an economist building.

by hairdresser on 09.10.20, 10:48 am ·#

If by average you mean of equal merit to most of the buildings around Hobart (which is the city it is located in, and surely that is the most relevant measure), then I can assure you that it is not average at all. Perhaps it is Hobart’s Economist building?

by Joan on 09.10.20, 06:16 pm ·#

Esmond Dorney is not average.
I’ve seen this one. Its no Economist.
preservation on simply contextual grounds = institutionalised mediocrity.
Its not even a historical argument – its dress code.

by hairdresser on 09.10.21, 10:10 am ·#

hairdresser, another dull argument ?

by cabbie on 09.10.21, 10:35 am ·#

Dirk Bolt speaks to the Mercury:
MERCURY 21.10.09

by peter on 09.10.22, 12:33 am ·#

no – this ones not exactly dull cabbie. its not brutalism maybe?
its more your beaux-arts wearing a brutalist coat. – hairdresser happy to support what Murray St. really is. A slightly stiff piece of conservative municipal modernism. But couldn’t bring myself to be un-erudite + sign a brutalism petition. preservationists need to tighten up their arguments a bit? Its not a bad piece of urban massing.
I hear its shot full of asbestos from head to toe so no matter what its an expensive gut out. won’t be much left inside when they are through scraping it clean? unfortunately.

by hairdresser on 09.10.22, 01:03 am ·#

having read that link to MERCURY – can’t agree with RFJ. Its certainly not a poor building. Thats hyperbole. Orig architect has his head screwed on i guess – argues unsentimentally for keeping the shell. Probably be the only one talking sense – the keepers wan’t to overcook it and the demo lobby typically talk it way down.

by hairdresser on 09.10.22, 01:09 am ·#

agreed hd, bolt is the only one making any sense.
the pro lifers have their nickers in a knot and the aborters want to destroy cause it doesn’t work with their grand design gesture.
in the end its an office building, to some it maybe a significant piece of a certain style, but its an office building.
be interesting to hear what the users of the building have to say about it, forget the design rhetoric for a second.
other than bolt, this sounds like more blackshirt navel gazing all round.

by cabbie on 09.10.22, 10:38 am ·#

right cabbie. we know abortionists r practical people.
but pro lifers r crazy.
who can forget the harold holt fiasco. Earnest lovers o modernism lined up with dazzle lucifer as if he was the author of the building they imagined was there? – when all he did was drive it out the documenting door, inherit the commission from Big Kev’s office ashes and then proceed to destroy a masterpiece with his own mediorcre interventions and additions within a few years of it being built.
Became a joke to listen to cassandra & co. get worked up about a “brutalist” building i’d lay good money down they never even saw in the window of opportunity when it was really there. alls left was kevin b’s ramp and stair in the corner by the time they blew hot air – 95% of it was an accretion of dazzle dumbell and a joke firm. daz woulda smiled himself to sleep every night that was going down – was angling for the job to fix/perpetuate his own ordinary fuckups?

Doesn’t he run heritage victoria now?

by hairdresser on 09.10.22, 11:25 am ·#

Yes, it is an office building – can there be no worthwhile office building, ever? Are the only good buildings art galleries or big weird empty spaces for people to prance around in? Seriously, i don’t understand what you’re talking about. Because it is not the best building in the entire world it should therefore be knocked down without a second thought? Completely illogical.

by Joan on 09.10.24, 12:37 am ·#

the design architect dr. bolt is the only one making any sense.
read carefully joan, don’t jump to conclusions.
start with the piece above and the mercury article where it references a conversation with the architect.
the first thing found was that after the sketch design was complete, the building was moved from its original intended location, which was site specific reading the deisign rhetoric. (third paragraph, last sentence)
the pro life and abortion arguments are as shallow as each other, where’s the substance in the argument? keep it cause its significant, knock it down cause its in the way, thats the way the arguments read. real architecture works with compromise and rises above it.
other than bolt its nothing more than blackshirt navel gazing.

by cabbie on 09.10.24, 10:42 am ·#

^^OG BHP melb office building and its silver brothers r worthy.
Council House Perth – pre last century mess up maybe.
Harry Seidler – anything. my list would go on…..and on + bore anyone.

am saying its a little hard to take history preservationists seriously if they can’t place the building eruditely. claiming its brutalist is illogical for sure?
p. lovell’s of this world would cut u up for their cat’s dinner (unless u hire em first – ha ha ha).

u think its good. say y. historys not a sticky label – or maybe it is now in wot passes for unis (TAFE colleges?). I say this murray thing is a piece of standard practice 60s urban orthodoxy – and up close its a piece of municipal modernism in the already fashionable clothing of that era – behind the times when it was built? maybe thats the argument for keeping it. a trace record of the last gasp of colonial administration? get my drift now.

I must admit though there r still some cranks in mexico who claim the GAS & FUEL should never have been replaced by Fed Square. Takes all sorts I suppose

by hairdresser on 09.10.24, 10:56 am ·#

I don’t believe the pro-10 Murray people have said anything about “keeping it as it is”. They are simply arguing against demolishing it. That does not preclude the idea of retrofitting or altering the building to fit in with new ideas.

By the way, whether or not it’s strictly a Brutalist building is not really the point either – that label is largely a matter of opinion.

by Joan on 09.10.25, 03:29 pm ·#

well joan i’d probably agree with u about opinion – so long as it comes from an expert. labels r everything in my book. I kinda like the Hebrew’s idea of how the world got created.

paul keating’s got an opinion on the heritage industry too. check it.

by hairdresser on 09.10.25, 08:40 pm ·#

fraser’s comment is very loaded.
pk always leaves you refreshed.
interesting article.

by cabbie on 09.10.25, 09:30 pm ·#

I’ve seen the display at the Sullivan’s Cove Authority office. A staff-member tells me it will not be available online; something to do with commercial sensitivities. As I supposed, the plaza is just the roof of the car-park. A scale model on show reveals the sheer impudence of the intended replacement for No. 10 Murray. It monsters Parliament House,as seen from Parliament lawns, and will cast a considerable shadow over the lawns, particularly so in Winter. At this time of year, No.10’s shadow just reaches the lawn, and the shadow from Parliament House is not intrusive at all.

by Richard on 09.11.06, 07:10 pm ·#

Paul Johnston has written an article in support of Bolt’s design, arguing for modernism as cultural heritage.

by ADR on 09.12.01, 02:50 pm ·#

From Paul’s article ( here ) : “To dismiss Number Ten as intrusive does not allow the 20th century a place in the history of our cities. It also ignores the role of modern architecture in addressing the complex issues that arise from anticipated growth in the urban environment. If we are to remove the best examples of how we might grow our cities, while only retaining the qualities that connect us to our more distant past, then we have much to understand of the means to achieve a sustainable society.”

by peter on 09.12.02, 09:03 pm ·#

News from late Feb: #10 will fall, but it won’t happen overnight, they have to demolish the neighbours first. MERCURY

by peter on 10.04.14, 10:25 am ·#

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