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A New Life – Maker’s Workshop

Originally constructed by Fairbrother over a decade ago, the Makers Workshop has transitioned from museum to a vibrant space dedicated to the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), the College of Business and Economics Tech Solutions Hub, a business incubator, and a public demonstration area. Following the University of Tasmania’s decision to reimagine and reopen the space, the northwest of Tasmania now benefits from a modern centre of ‘making’ that allows for hands-on learning experiences, the progression and development of business ideas, and advancement of the region’s key industries through specialised technology, training and research.

“It was originally built for the Paper Making Museum,” said Ben Hawkes, Project Manager for Fairbrother. “But recently it’s been sitting there without much use.”

Working with a close client in the University of Tasmania, the project sought to revitalise the building with the development of high-quality learning facilities alongside vibrant and creative open spaces, as well as offices for staff, and a high-end agricultural lab.

A crucial aspect of the renovation was the extensive internal demolition required to facilitate the new design’s open spaces and learning facilities. This redesign introduced a significant structural overhaul, including the installation of internal steel structures to accommodate workspaces and a mezzanine floor for the mechanical plant deck. The internal composition comprised metal stud framing, plasterboard, and internal glazed partitions, ensuring a modern and functional interior conducive to the hub’s educational and innovative activities.

Notably, the project featured distinctive acoustic panelling and lighting fixtures, crucial elements that underscore the building’s functional and aesthetic transformation. The acoustic panelling, designed to mimic the urban landscape of Burnie City, incorporated detailed container-like features in colours that resonate with the city’s vibrancy. This choice was not only stylistic but also functional, addressing the need for sound management in the large open spaces to create a conducive environment for learning and collaboration. Similarly, the lighting fixtures were selected with precision, balancing the requirements for energy efficiency with the need to provide adequate illumination for the hub’s diverse activities.

The renovation faced several challenges, among them the long lead times required for essential materials such as flooring, wall linings, and supplies. The project team’s foresight in anticipating these issues allowed for early resolution, ensuring that delays were minimised.

“It was a short program,” said Ben. “A lot of the items being supplied had long lead times, and were quite high-tech, so a lot of it had to be procured very early on.”

Another challenge was integrating new and existing Building Management Systems, which demanded extensive consultation and collaboration to achieve a seamless operational framework.

The outcome of this transformative project is a modern, multifunctional facility that stands at the intersection of education, innovation, and community engagement. The Maker’s Workshop now offers the community a dynamic space for learning, discovery, and innovation. This project underscores the potential of adaptive reuse in contemporary architecture and education, demonstrating how existing structures can be reimagined to serve new purposes in response to evolving societal and technological demands.

The renovation of the Makers Workshop is particularly significant for Fairbrother, representing not only a continuation of the long-standing relationship with the University of Tasmania but also a reaffirmation of their expertise in managing complex renovation projects.