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Hobart educational heritage set to be restored

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Work to conserve an important piece of Hobart’s educational heritage has begun with contractors on site to carry out a $13.5 million restoration of the Philip Smith Centre on the Domain.

Originally completed in 1910, the Philip Smith Centre was Tasmania’s first purpose-built facility for teacher training and was the home of the Hobart Teachers’ Training College. After World War II, the University of Tasmania’s Faculty of Education was established in the building.

Philip Thomas Smith
Philip Thomas Smith was a pastoralist and social reform advocate who donated 1000 pounds in 1874 to establish a teacher training college. He wrote in The Mercury on 21 August 1874 that 'No social or political question approaches the education question in importance'.

“The Philip Smith Centre is a real piece of Hobart’s teaching and learning history and we are excited to be restoring it for future generations,” the University’s Executive Director of Campus Transformation Phil Leersen said.

“This investment is about caring for a building that was an important part of the University’s original home on the Domain and a place of real significance and value for the community.

“We’ve worked closely with the Glebe Residents’ Association on plans for the building and the broader Domain site and we are grateful for the time and effort they have invested to help get the best outcomes for the site and the local community.”

Plans by heritage architecture specialists Lovell Chen will see conservation work inside and out along with a refit providing flexible, multi-use learning and teaching spaces to reinstate the building’s original function as a purpose-built teaching facility.

In line with the University’s commitment to sustainability, the refurbishment will include works to bring the building up to modern environmental standards. It will include roof upgrades to incorporate high-performance insulation and airtightness, a heat recovery ventilation system, restoration of the original verandas, accessible entrances, and internal lifts.

The project will support the growth of a skilled construction workforce in Tasmania with expertise in working with the State’s heritage buildings. Among the approximately 150 people who will work on the conservation project, contractor Hansen Yuncken will be training up 10 new apprentices.

Hansen Yuncken State Manager for Tasmania Matt Cadle said the company was excited to be partnering with the University of Tasmania to deliver the Philip Smith Centre.

“Building on our longstanding relationship with the University, this project provides a valuable opportunity to apply our heritage construction expertise, following our recent works at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Cascade Female Factory,” Mr Cadle said.

The Domain has long been at the heart of Tasmania’s educational history. In 1850, it became the home of the first non-sectarian school in Van Diemen’s Land, the High School of Hobart Town. Australia’s fourth university, the University of Tasmania, moved on to the site in 1892.

Hobart City Council approved the Development Application last year and the project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.