Bothwell's New Visitor Centre Respects its Past

Bothwell’s new Visitor Centre is injecting new life into a set of historic buildings, and contributing to the rejuvenation of one of Tasmania’s most scenic historic towns.

Designed by Launceston firm Loop Architecture, the Visitor Centre is a modern building placed between two historic structures – a former school and the teacher’s residence, both entered on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

The school was designed by the Government Architect in 1886 and officially opened on 21 June 1887 as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. A report to the Minister for Education noted that the new building was “substantially built of good and durable material”, but highlighted the need to erect a fence between the boys and girls recreation areas as “it was hitherto been the custom for the sexes to mingle indiscriminately during play hours”. The teacher’s residence was ready for occupation one month later. By July 1948, the school had become overcrowded, with 116 children sitting at desks ‘hard against the walls and hard against the teacher’s table’.  A request to the Acting Minister for Education for new premises was successful. The new area school was opened in 1955, and the former school closed as an educational institution. More recently, both buildings have been used by local community groups.

Today, the two historic heritage buildings are joined by a contemporary extension that successfully bridges the gap by using similar massing and materials of historic buildings in Bothwell. The extension is set back from the facades of the two sandstone buildings with a ridgeline that provides a comfortable transition between them.

In designing the building, Loop Architecture undertook extensive documentation of the existing buildings and discovered that the former school building concealed scissor truss roof framing above more recent pine ceiling. This simple structural design was adapted for the new building, combining a modern composite insulated roof panel system with traditional bolted timber scissor trusses. The new addition employs gable roof forms, expressed timber framing, and cladding to emulate the widespread craft aesthetic of the area and compliment the detailed stonework of the buildings it flanks.

The result is a purpose built Visitor Centre for Bothwell that respects its past, ensures the ongoing use of two much-loved heritage buildings, and enhances facilities for the community and visitors to Bothwell.

Images: Loop Architecture

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