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Hobart Civic Square reconsidered : a professional town planning project


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Risby, Brian 1994 , 'Hobart Civic Square reconsidered : a professional town planning project', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The debate over a Civic Square for Hobart has been alive ever since Governor
Macquarie instructed Surveyor Meehan to lay out the grid of streets in 1811.
Part of Macquarie's grand plan was the creation of a large public space at the
foot of Elizabeth Street on the Sullivans Cove side of Macquarie Street. This he
named Georges Square in honour of the King. It was to serve variously as
muster area for the convicts, parade ground for the troops and centre of the town
around which all important public buildings were planned. Although the
Macquarie Plan was never really fulfilled that square is present in part today as
Franklin Square yet the debate over a civic square continues , having reached its
height in the 1980s when designs were submitted for a maritime flavoured public
space and commercial development. These plans were also never to get much
further than the drawing board. So why has the issue of a civic square remained
so difficult to resolve and so controversial?
This study contends that most ideas for such a square have been devoid of any
considerations of the social and cultural context that is needed to have them
accepted by the local people and all too often have been of a physical style or
typology which is not characteristic of Hobart and therefore not easily
assimilated into the city fabric.
As the twentieth century draws to a close, the rapid social changes brought about
by technology raise the question of the role and worth of civic spaces in the
contemporary city. The relevance of such public spaces must be determined before
any proposals take physical shape. At the same time recent theories of urban
design have rediscovered the importance and characteristics of public space,
determining that space is the primary element of the city not buildings and that
the buildings are used to create the spaces. Through a process of examining the historical development of public space in
Hobart, and the roles and characteristics of spaces in history and their relevance today, the study concludes that far from public space being irrelevant in today's
city, it is increasingly needed to act as 'social glue'.
However, in accordance with the need to apply meaning to the physical space,
an analysis of the city covering amongst other things functional zones,
movement patterns, landforms, climate and ambience, and cultural institutions
and associations is carried out. From this analysis a key space emerges as that
which offers the opportunity to extend the public realm while linking existing
spaces, improving the problematic City to Cove link, providing a much needed
adjunct to a major civic building and offering a new site for an isolated civic
function which has historical links with the site.
The space is created through repairing the city fabric by a planned intervention
on the site at the back of the Hobart Town Hall and the Elizabeth Street edge of
Franklin Square, and then reworking the section of Elizabeth Street as a series of
connected spaces. The proposal suggests a new wing to the Town Hall abutting
the Carnegie Building and running along Davey Street which would be an ideal
new home for a public library function.
The essence of the study is not to search for a physical site where a grand space
can be created, but to recognise that Hobart has a number of smaller spaces
which serve a variety of functions and a huge informal waterfront area which
can be used for occasional events. What is required appears to be an intimate
space which serves a multitude of functions related to city government and
·information exchange, and which links the existing spaces and major sections of
the city together. The recommendations cover not only the basic characteristics of the key physical
space but also management and detailed design considerations which are an
integral part of making the space a 'place' which will be 'owned' by the public
and used to enhance the social life of the city and its sense of cityhood.
The opportunity exists to complete the new Civic Square to coincide with the
bicentenary of the founding of Hobart on this site in February 2004.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Risby, Brian
Keywords: Civic Square (Hobart, Tas.) (Proposed), Plazas, City planning
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1994 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Project undertaken for the Master of Town Planning degree, University of Tasmania

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