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The Power of Glass

Featured project: Canberra Glassworks, by Tanner Architects.
Read the extract feature article from Indesign Magazine #32 here

The Power of Glass


February 4th, 2008

Tanner Architects has transformed the historic and, until recently, derelict Kingston Powerhouse into the Canberra Glassworks – described by glass master Klaus Moje as one of the best in the world. Penny Craswell discovers a classic example of adaptive re-use.

When Jocelyn Jackson, Director of Tanner Architects first visited the abandoned Kingston Powerhouse on the shore of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, it was dirty, dusty, cobwebbed with holes in the floor and graffiti on the walls. “It was a wet, miserable, cold September or October day,” says Jackson. “The space was grey and cobwebby and we were thinking: ‘Isn’t this wonderful, what do we do with this?’”

The Powerhouse, originally completed in 1915, had been earmarked for demolition after the creation of Lake Burley Griffin had made it useless in 1957 – previous to that it had relied on the current of the Molonglo River to generate power. But, instead of being knocked down, it was left where it was and, when a group of glass artists were lobbying for a glassworks, the two were a perfect fit.

The original idea to create a glassworks in Canberra came from a group of students at the ANU School of Art. The glass department had been very strong since it was created in the 1980s by leading glass artist Klaus Moje, with 70% of students going on to be practicing glass artists – many with international careers.

However, after graduation, the students invariably tended to move interstate or overseas, as the facilities were not there to continue working in Canberra. The original proposal was knocked back, which led Moje himself to become involved.

“When the first feasibility study was rejected, I approached Kate Carnell, who was the ACT Chief Minister at the time, and the crafts council,” says Moje. “We discussed the situation with many of the glass artists leaving Canberra and going to Sydney and Melbourne and elsewhere.”

As a result of Moje’s influence, another feasibility study was carried out and, after much to-ing and fro-ing, the Kingston Powerhouse was finally offered as the site by Chief Minister, John Stanhope….

Read the whole feature article in Indesign Magazine #32, on newstands February 14th.

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