From Uncomfortable to Comfortable: Tracing the Adaptive Reuse of Australian Heritage Gaols.

  • Waled Shehata

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Penal establishments, which took the form of colonies and institutions, area cornerstone in the history of Australia and constitute a valuable part of Australia’s commonly debated uncomfortable heritage. Australia is the only advanced country on earth that began as a purpose-designed penal colony. It didn’t begin as a place where there were settlers who used convicts but as a jail. Penal settlements were intensively built in the 18thCentury in Australia; their designs mostly reflected the penitentiaries’ Gothic fashion. Over time, many incarceration establishments around Australia have become functionally obsolete and were decommissioned, and in the last few decades, many have undergone adaptive reuse. While most of these gaols were preserved and converted in their present-day state to museums that celebrate the dark history of the site, others have been transformed differently. The remaining few of the surviving stock of uncomfortable and shameful places were adaptively reused to publicly used buildings such as theatres, hotels, event venues or art schools. Even further in some cases, parts of their campus lands were developed into mixed-use and residential developments. An extensive body of literature exists on the preservation of heritage gaols and the inclusive interpretation and presentation of the Penal side of Australian history. However, few had discussed the ‘transformation’ phenomena of these gaols per se. The overall objective of this thesis is to discuss the adaptive reuse of heritage gaols, as representatives of ‘uncomfortableness’, to accommodate contemporary uses for the free public. This thesis will elaborate on the related attributes and critically discuss a few of the underlying factors and impacts of transforming heritage-listed Australian gaols. Due to the generally unexplored domain and the multidisciplinary nature of this investigation, this dissertation performs a series of investigations on the adaptive reuse of Australia’s heritage gaols. These investigations are presented as consecutive publications, and together form this dissertation in the form of a PhD by Compilation of Publications. Published researches comprise: (1) tracking heritage gaols in Australia and navigate in the main literature of their dark and uncomfortable history; (2) critically discussing the transformation of the former Bendigo Gaol to a Theatre and School; (3) assessing the impact of HM Prison Pentridge on surrounding property prices; (4) elaborate on architectural and historical discussions of the transformation of HM Prison Pentridge, a representative of ‘uncomfortableness’ to a residential precinct and mixed-use development; and (5)exploring the Adaptive Reuse Potential of the underused stock of Heritage Gaols using Richmond Gaol as a case study. This series of peer-reviewed papers are combined as-is in this thesis, book-ended with an introduction and a conclusion, forming a logical and authoritative account of the research journey.
Date of Award16 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCraig Langston (Supervisor) & Marja Sarvimaki (Supervisor)

Cite this