Hotel MONA (HOMO) project
HOMO. Image: Fender Katsalidis Architects

Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has plans underway for an art-studded five-star hotel, and news just in is that it’s going for Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification. 

Designed by Fender Katsalidis director Nonda Katsalidis in conjunction with MONA’s creator David Walsh, and engineering by Brookfield Scientific Solutions’ James Murray-Parkes, the proposed $300 million Hotel MONA (HOMO) project – which involves a 63-metre high, 172-room hotel cantilevered over the River Derwent – is perhaps the most ambitious project in existence to pursue the exacting LBC seal of approval, considered the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. 

Within the dramatic hotel’s shell, there’s plans for a function centre and conference facilities, a three-storey public library, a high rollers’ “anti-casino” (open only to international guests), a terrace, restaurant, bar, gym and a 1075-seat theatre. There’s also plans for an outdoor concert stage and “an immersive spa experience that is partially interconnected with artworks and terraced outdoor spaces, which could exceed 1200 square metres in floor area”, according to planning documents.

Function room. Image: Fender Katsalidis Architects

If the project is to meet LBC standards, all these facilities will have to be water, energy and carbon positive. A challenging prospect, but that’s probably not the most difficult task. Ask anyone with LBC experience and they’ll tell you the biggest hurdle is materials – particularly in Australia.

As part of the materials “petal” of the LBC, projects are not able to include materials containing chemicals on a Red List of more than 20 products, including PVC, VOCs and some wood treatments. All timber must be FSC-certified or from salvaged sources, and one Declare-labelled product must be used for every 500 square metres of gross building area at minimum.

The Living Economy Sourcing can be the most difficult imperative, particularly in more remote areas: 20 per cent or more of the materials construction budget must come from within 500km of the construction site; an additional 30 per cent must come from within 1000km and another 25 per cent from within 5000km.  

The project must also be net positive on waste. 

So it’s not surprising that MONA is now seeking a Living Building Challenge materials coordinator to coordinate and implement these demanding sustainability requirements.

“Reporting to the sites and projects manager, the role will provide technical support and guidance for the development, leasing and delivery teams, with a focus on materials under the following imperatives: Red List, Living Economy Sourcing, Embodied Carbon, Responsible Industry and Healthy Interior Environment,” the job ad states.

The role is a part-time six-month contract with applications closing 9 July. 

Library. Image: Fender Katsalidis Architects

When announcing HOMO last year, MONA owner David Walsh was succinct in his rationale for the project.

“It’s very simple really. We like building stuff,” he said. 

“So far it has gone pretty well for us, and hopefully also for our communities. This time, some may think it’s gotten a little out of hand – the excavation alone is more than four times the size of that for the museum – but we seem to have some support, the plans have turned out pretty well, and we can’t rest on our laurels for ever. The heart of MONA is chance.”

The ambitious scheme will require a change to the local planning scheme, however, before a development application (DA) can be submitted, so it’s still early stages. The rezoning proposal recently won support from the local Glenorchy City Council, but is still being considered by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, which is set to make a decision in July. 

With the building planning to be an “unapologetically prominent landmark” – something typically at odds with planning requirements – it is still unclear what the outcome/constraints will be.

It has also drawn the ire of some members of the local community, with the proposal likened to an upside-down shopping trolley.

“It’s not modest,” Mr Walsh has said of the proposal. 

Judging by the job ad, though, MONA seems confident the project will go ahead.

Mr Walsh said the build would take about three years from commencement, creating 300 full-time construction jobs and a further 120 full-time ongoing jobs. MONA has not given a specific opening date, but a statement said “let’s say (just for the fun of it) the 11th anniversary of MONA’s opening in 2011”.

Outdoor playground. Image: Fender Katsalidis Architects

Co-chief executive Mark Wilsdon said the project would also help drive interstate and global tourism.

“We expect HOMO to be attractive to large segments of the national and international business and conference markets that previously haven’t turned to Tasmania due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure,” he said.  

“New facilities, like the auditorium and theatre, will also allow us to further activate the site at night, and continue to diversify the appeal of MONA to Tasmanians too.”

MONA has been contacted for comment.



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  1. Build it in timber!
    Timber is the most environmentally appropriate modern building material there is. Trees suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in wood fibre. Long-term use of timber in buildings and treasured objects gives the stored carbon a second life which can be just as long, or even longer than the original life of the tree, and it is especially appropriate if new trees are planted in the place of those harvested.
    Using timber can substitute for more carbon-harmful products such as concrete, steel, aluminium and plastics.
    In a carbon-conscious world, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to use more timber, and have a well-managed timber induustry.
    Build it in timber!

  2. Now we are starting to look like a world class outfit.
    Well done David Walsh and whoever else is supporting the idea … council, state government, private investors, whoever you are … congratulations on having the courage to do something great not just for Tasmania but Australia.
    Onwards and upwards.
    Best regards,

  3. This project will be a great example of innovative design and sustainability. I find it amazing that architects fail to recognise that they need a very capable builder to realise their dreams. In this case I understand Multiplex are the builders. The project is in good hands. The back story here is the engineering solution and the role of one of Australia’s greatest modern engineers James Murray-Parkes. Without his brilliant mind this project would have been technically more difficult, would have consumed way more construction materials and not have embraced Jame’s re-writing of traditional design.
    Once, great Architects acknowledged their relationship with great engineers and builders. These days the community is lulled into a misbelief that Architects can just put a few lines on a piece of paper and whamo! We can all be proud of this build.