nobbys – the next stage

Nobbys Headland is an important community asset, loved by locals and visitors alike.  Since Newcastle NOW first opened the grounds to the public three years ago, over 100,000 people have made the journey up the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views.

In early 2013, Webber Architects aided Newcastle NOW in helping to invigorate the use of the headland. This involved brainstorming ideas for short term place-making activities involving mobile hubs, and undertaking minor alterations to the existing fabric. In early 2014, we began assisting with the cleanup and restoration of the cottages, enabled by Newcastle NOW signing a short-term lease agreement with Newcastle Port Corporation to continue its efforts to provide equitable public access to the heritage-listed site. More recently, Newcastle NOW has secured a longer term licence agreement and is proposing further works to facilitate community engagement and the creation of sustainable income to support the ongoing maintenance and management costs. Webber Architects has provided its services for place-making activities and restoration works as pro-bono and has now provided a design for the headland on the same basis.

In considering the future of the headland we suggested the ideals of INCLUSIVENESS, ACCESSIBILITY and ACTIVITY. To achieve these ideals the architectural response extended to promoting DIVERSITY, FLEXIBILITY and CONNECTIVITY in a manner which is respectful to the headland.

The site itself provides fantastic views all the way from the Bathers Way and Harbour Foreshore precincts through to the walk along Macquarie Pier (Newcastle Breakwall) and up the steep access road to the lighthouse grounds. On reaching the summit, the zone around the headland perimeter can be likened to many other important sites in cities around Australia including Bennelong Point. The group of buildings including the Sydney Opera House can be circumnavigated in its entirety. The public space is the key to inclusiveness and we see this potential in Nobbys Headland.

This headland perimeter links each building and activity zone. The activity zone is a flexible space which can be used for various kinds of public functions. The important structures within the building zone and the proposed uses are as follows:

  • A public viewing area which is proposed to surround the site using the existing fence line with a series of ground level paths and decks accessed via ramps.
  • The Signal Masters Cottage (the first building on your left as you arrive at the headland) is earmarked as a museum to showcase the history of the lighthouse or as an exhibition space for local artists or manufacturers to exhibit their goods.
  • A café which would spill out towards the public viewing area, and a children’s play area are also proposed for the first of the two cottages on the right.   It is proposed that the other cottage be used as accommodation, potentially being split into two units or used as a single dwelling.
  • A temporary function platform which is proposed to replace the currently derelict garages which do not offer any heritage value. This platform could be used for a range of activities or events.
  • The hill leading to the lighthouse which has a history as a training location for sporting teams and a feeling towards the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. The possibility of fitness equipment on the headland would promote the healthy lifestyle message and provide a destination for regular users thereby adding activity to the site.

By adding relevant uses to the site more people will visit and enable the site to become sustainable.  It is well known that the best way to preserve the heritage of the site is to use it and to maintain it well.  By activating this site with a series of flexible spaces we can enrich the venue itself and various parts of the site.  This proposal was recently presented by the sitting member of Newcastle City Council and was met with support.  The proposal will be on display at the lighthouse over the coming weeks and also on the Newcastle NOW website.  Your feedback is welcome.

To view the current restoration, select the following link:  Nobbys Restoration Stage 1.


Written by Jon Webber, Director at Webber Architects

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