Last Thursday, appearing at a lunch for Tasmania’s tourism industry, millionaire art provocateur and professional gambler David Walsh announced the expansion of his Tasmanian cultural empire unveiling his plans for “HOtel at MOna”, otherwise known as”HOMO”. If planning approval from government and community support endorse the project the project will go ahead at Berriedale, north of Hobart.
Walsh, the man credited with kick-starting the local economy and putting Hobart on the map, does not shy away from controversy and challenges, and with HOMO we can only guess that he’s having a dig at Tasmania’s past and isolation – it was only 20 years ago that homosexuality was punishable by law. But times have changed.
The founder of MONA has not only boosted Tasmanian economy but he can also be credited with shifting Tasmanian attitudes and supporting a forward thinking and open arts community. The recent annual Dark Mofo mid-winter festival featuring Hermann Nitsch 150, not only caused outrage from animal justice groups but also enjoyed record attendance despite controversy. Action show, is also behind a $2-billion redevelopment proposal at Hobart’s Macquarie Point precinct that has a focus on the conflict between Europeans and original Aboriginal people during the establishment of the colony.
HOMO, the mammoth 172-room hotel will be built jutting out across the Derwent River. The structure resembles a portion of an incomplete brightly coloured suspension bridge aiming to reach the shore opposite. As part of the larger picture for the rejuvenation of the northern Tasmanian economy, Walsh also plans to shift his summer arts festival, MONA FOMA from Hobart to Launceston.
Designed with the assistance of MONA architect Nonda Katsalidis, HOMO will have a library housing Walsh’s extensive book collection, a conference centre, a 1075 seat theatre, some extra gallery spaces, an health spa, jetties for a fleet of motoscafi ferries, a new outdoor stage and more bars.
The New project by MONA founder, will be one of the first clients for Unitised Building, the modular construction company founded by architect Nonda Katsalidis who has in his sights the elimination of cement and concrete on building sites as the future of the construction industry.
Unitised Building uses a steel modular construction system that in 2010 gave Australia its first high-rise prefabricated residential building, Little Hero apartment project in the CBD of Melbourne. They have recently located to Adelaide to modify and develop the technology further and to make it more adaptable. Construction on HOMO will commence next year with 2020 in their sights as the completion date.