A shortlist of four firms has been announced for the Cascades Female Factory design competition. Announced earlier this year, the competition sought the design of a new History and Interpretation Centre at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in South Hobart.

The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) sought a new centre that acknowledged the historic significance of the Female Factory, which is considered Australia’s most significant historic housing site for female convicts. Today, the Female Factory is one of 11 Australian Convict World Heritage Sites.

Cascades Female Factory was a purpose-built institution, designed by colonial engineer John Lee Archer, that was built with the intention of reforming female convicts. Completed in 1823, the factory first functioned as a distillery, but was converted into the Female Factory after being sold in 1827. The institution was in use until 1856.

Approximately 50 expressions of interest were received by the competition board, 20 of which were later invited to submit designs. From there, a shortlist of four finalists was chosen: Welsh and Major (NSW), Hector Abrahams Architects with Neeson Murcutt (NSW), Aileen Sage Architects with Jean Rice Architects (NSW), and Liminal Studio (TAS) with Snøhetta (International).

“It is absolutely critical that we maintain the remaining fabric of the historic site and that we interpret it the best way we can to ensure that the stories and [contributions] of these convict women are not lost, and that their achievements are understood,” says professor Sharon Sullivan AO FAHA, chair of both the PAHSMA Board and jury for the competition.

“A new centre will allow visitors greater opportunities to engage with the multitude of stories and complex layered history that the site has to offer.”

The shortlisted teams will now further develop their proposals and present them to the jury in October. The winning design is expected to be announced in November.

The jury consists of a number of women involved in Australian architecture, heritage management, and the arts. The panel included Catherine Baudet, director at Ferrier Baudet Architects; Janet Carding, director at Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery; Justine Clark, architectural editor, speaker and researcher; Shelley Penn, director at Shelley Penn Architect; and Penelope Evatt Seidler AM, director at Harry Seidler and Associates.