Domain House

TypeConservation & AdaptionLocationHobart, TasmaniaClientUniversity of TasmaniaYear2015StatusCompletedArchitectCumulus Studio in association with Paul Johnston Architects and Peter Freeman Conservation Architects and PlannersPhotosSimon Cuthbert, Chris Crerar


The Sandstone Universities are an informal grouping of Australia’s eight oldest universities named after their common architectural trait: they all include colonial era buildings constructed of sandstone. Within this group is the University of Tasmania who moved into their first home Domain House, a 1848 neo-Gothic building constructed for Hobart’s first high school, in 1892. When the university vacated the premises in the early 1960’s for its new campus at Sandy Bay, it left behind the sandstone building and with it the traditions and prestige associated with the early institution.

Over the proceeding decades, the building was used by the Tasmanian School of Art and other education providers until the late nineties. It was then left vacant and under-utilised for 15 years, and subsequently fell into a poor state of disrepair and decay.

In 2011, UTAS secured ownership of Domain House seeking to not only restore the site to working order, but to reinstate the 1850’s building as one of the University’s most heralded public and ceremonial spaces. Cumulus Studio, in collaboration with Paul Johnston Architects and Peter Freeman, facilitated this restoration by reversing the decay and stabilising the building fabric. The project scope involved investigatory and conservation works, as well as exploring options for future alterations or additions, and establishing the parameters for these within the recently proposed Domain Campus Urban Design Framework. This required the development of a localised strategy that was consistent with the University’s future growth plan while appropriately responding to the cultural heritage of the site.

This layered approach of restoration, refurbishment and future planning has reinstated Domain House’s important relationship with the University of Tasmania and ensured that it will once again be a fundamental aspect of its public identity.