Four teams shortlisted for Cascades Female Factory design competition

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Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania

Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania Image: Courtesy PAHSMA

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An internal courtyard at the Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania

An internal courtyard at the Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania Image: Courtesy PAHSMA

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The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) has announced the shortlist for a competition to design a new history and interpretation centre at the World Heritage-listed Cascades Female Factory Historic Site south of Hobart. 

From approximately 50 expressions of interest received from across the country, more than 20 groups were invited to submit designs. From these, a five-member, all-woman jury selected four design teams to proceed to the final stage of the competition:

  • Welsh and Major (NSW)
  • Hector Abrahams Architects with Neeson Murcutt (NSW)
  • Aileen Sage Architects with Jean Rice Architects (NSW)
  • Liminal Studio (TAS) with Snøhetta (International)

The Cascades Female Factory is Australia’s most significant historic site associated with female convicts. It was originally built as a distillery in 1823 until it was sold to the colonial government and converted for use as a prison for women by colonial architect John Lee Archer in 1828. The site operated as a convict facility until 1856. More than 6,000 convicts were incarcerated at the Cascades Female Factory. The women housed at the facility were subjected to up to 12 hours a day of labour.

An internal courtyard at the Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania Image:  Courtesy PAHSMA

The site originally comprised five conjoined rectangular yards and a collection of sandstone buildings. Three of the five yards remain along with the Matron’s Cottage. The site is one of 11 Australian convict sites that comprise the Australian Convict Sites property that was added to the World Heritage Register in 2010.

The competition called for the design of the new centre to be a “contemporary and sympathetic” response to the “profound history of the site.”

“It is absolutely critical that we maintain the remaining fabric of the historic site and that we interpret it the best way we can to ensure that the stories and contribution of these convict women are not lost, and that their achievements are understood,” said Sharon Sullivan, chair of the jury and the PAHSMA board.

“A new centre will allow visitors greater opportunity to engage with the multitude of stories and complex layered history that the site has to offer.”

A spokesperson for PAHSMA told ArchitectureAU, “The entries received for Stage B were competitive and engaging and represented a diversity with regard to design approach.”

“The competition is an important project to promote the fostering and participation of female architects with projects of significance, as is befitting the values and history of the site.”

The shortlisted teams will now further develop their schemes to present to the jury in October.

The winning design is expected to be named in November, supported by an exhibition and publicaton. “The winning design will be one which best embodies the principles, objectives and philosophy of the project and engages wit the extant fabric and heritage values of the site,” said PAHSMA in a statement.

The jury comprises Catherine Baudet (Ferrier Baudet Architects), Shelley Penn (Shelley Penn Architect), Penelope Seidler (Harry Seidler and Associates), Janet Carding (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) and Justine Clark (architectural editor, speaker and researcher).

A fundraising campaign, that is hoped will raise $3 million, will be led by political leaders Julia Gillard (Australia’s first female prime minister), Lara Giddings (first female premier of Tasmania), Elise Archer (speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly), and Fran Bailey (former federal MP).


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