While warehouse conversions are all the rage in post-industrialised cities, they’re not always the most comfortable places to occupy and often involve large-scale alterations to services to make them liveable.  

Tasmania’s Core Collective Architects went to great lengths to strike the right balance of preservation and upgrade at their latest project in Hobart, and in doing so, have created a space that could set a precedent for the adaptive reuse of the city’s many industrialised spaces.

‘The Press Hall’ on Macquarie Street, Hobart was once a 1930’s V8 Ford showroom and later a newspaper press and workshop. Core Collective was tasked with converting the space into a restaurant, bakery and café, and just to add a little vested interest, they made room for their own architecture studio as well.

Core Collective director Ryan Strating notes that while the building had a warm charm, it was literally cold and needed a level of mechanical heating to make the space suitable for a restaurant.  

“Like all old buildings of this size, in winter it can be really hard and expensive to heat the space because the walls and glazing are old and deteriorating,” says Strating.

“We chose an in-screed hydronic system because of its low cost and, when combined with the ceiling fans, its ability to keep radiant heat low and at occupant level.”

The haphazard agendas of previous renovations resulted in construction quirks like bricked up gables and lintels; curious floor level changes and hidden charming details. To avoid overwhelming this, Core Collective inserted new parts with recessive detailing and a palette limited to site-observed materials

The old slab at the Press Hall was uneven and a little deteriorated which Core Collective say added to the building’s charm. Instead of levelling the slab, Strating and his team opted to keep the quirky unevenness and simply added a topping screed that appears thick in some parts and thin in others.  Core Collective first laid an insulating layer directly on top of the slab and then added a 90mm concrete screed which was laid with hydronic piping. The floor was then given a burnished finish.

The majority of the hydronic system came from Rehau and Strating notes that it was purchased as both an off-the-shelf and customised solution, with Rehau adapting all their pipes, joins and manifolds to suit his needs.

The water is heated by a Bosch electric boiler and temperatures controlled by a choice of timer or thermostat, which were chosen by Strating because of budget restraints. Core Collective did toy with the idea of using heat exchange from the restaurant’s custom designed scotch oven to supply heat to the hydronic system but in the end it was just a little too complicated and could have resulted in complicated maintenance procedures.

A fireplace and warmth from the kitchen ovens and stovetops also warm the concrete thermal mass.

Strating also noted that the system was designed so that a solar system could be retrofitted to power the boiler and said that the building’s massive roof would be ideal for PV Panels in the future.

The architects say that their final solution keeps the restaurant at a comfortable temperature throughout the Hobart winter which has a mean minimum temperature below five degrees Celsius.

The Press Hall is currently being considered for the Tasmanian Architecture Awards in the Commercial Architecture category.  


Completed: 2014

Location: Hobart, Tasmania


Project architect: Chris Clinton

Design Architect: Ryan Strating

Builder: In2Construction Services

Photographers: Peter Whyte & Luke Burgess


Hydronic system: Rehau

Boiler: Bosch