The existing building at 430 Macquarie Street, South Hobart, is a Heritage listed building in a listed Heritage Precinct. (No 3168 on the Tas Heritage Register).
The original building dates from the Victorian period and was built circa 1870, and it is understood that the building was initially used as public drinking house, with a residence for the innkeeper on the First Floor. The pub was called ‘The Mountain Retreat’, hence the name of the Medical Practice.
The Ground Floor of the building was converted for use as a medical practice by two general practitioners in the 1970s with the First Floor remaining as a separately accessed dwelling. The building had a single entry porch off Macquarie St, which was very narrow with two external steps, both of which represented a source of considerable difficulty for a large percentage of clinic’s current clients.
The essence of the recent work was to build four new consulting suites in a new copper clad hipped roofed building to the north of the existing clinic, on what was vacant land. These consulting rooms are connected to the existing building by a new glazed link which will function as a general entry and waiting area. The recycling of the Heritage listed building was an important part of addressing the issues of sustainability, both of a practical and psychological nature. To see the building as part of the cultural continuity of the historic area was an important attribute of the project from the outset. At a practical level there was a significant reduction in new building works by the re-use of the Ground Floor of the old pub. The four new Consulting Suites have been designed to create pleasant, sunny but completely private internal spaces for the doctors to consult with their patients. Natural daylight is important in some medical examination procedures, but blinds will also allow the interior of the consulting rooms to be dimmed if and when required. The view into a planted courtyard garden will add to the natural ambience of the room for both the doctors during working hours and assist in adding something positive to the patients’ psychological well-being. The existing Ground Floor of the Heritage Building has been recycled to become the main reception / waiting area, with ancillary Treatment Rooms, Allied Health Room and toilets. Very little of the original historic fabric from Victorian times remained after several renovations, but all original historic elements remaining were preserved. The major design aim was to create an appropriate non institutional environment for the new consulting suites, to benefit both patient and doctor. The psychological benefits for both groups is very significant. For patients, it removes the clinical sterility all too often present in medical environments and instead replaces it with a private space where natural living plants and sunlight predominate, creating a far more humane atmosphere. For the doctors, this is the space where they must work often for more than 8 hours a day, and having the enclosed garden is greatly valued. One doctor has even brought in goldfish from home for the new pond. The project represents a significant addition in a historically sensitive residential area, with the preservation of the heritage of the neighbourhood as being of paramount concern. The new building was conceived as a contemporary ‘outbuilding’ to the original 2 storey historic building. It was important that the visual dialogue between old and new was appropriate, and the use of copper for the external wall and roof cladding which aged naturally was part of that philosophy. It is in effect a new ‘civic’ building respecting the values of the community in which it is situated. The building has received a great deal of positive comment and acclaim from all quarters. Adaptive reuse of buildings which preserve and add positively to the historic character of the existing surrounding urban fabric is very important in the maintenance of a neighbourhood community, and even groups who were initially apprehensive about the proposed changes to the building have expressed their satisfaction with the finished project.