Magdalen Laundries Restoration
The Abbotsford Convent’s ageing and currently unusable Magdalen Laundries are set to become significant arts and cultural spaces, with work expected to commence in the second half of 2017.
This project was announced in August 2016, following a State Government contribution of $2.7 million towards transforming the Laundries, granted from the $30 million Living Heritage fund.
The Abbotsford Convent, Australia’s largest multi-arts precinct, comprises of 11 historical buildings. The Laundries is one of the last remaining buildings to be redeveloped for arts, cultural and learning purposes since ownership of the Convent was handed to the public under the management of the not-for-profit Abbotsford Convent Foundation, just 13 years ago.
Williams Boag architects will lead the design for the restoration of the Laundries. WBa is a preeminent Melbourne-based firm with expertise spanning architecture, planning, urban design and interior design.
Background, History and Heritage
The Convent’s Magdalen Laundries are noted for their architectural and historic significance.
Built in the 1880s by the original owners of the Convent, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Laundries were staffed by women who lived onsite at the Magdalen Asylum. The Laundries were a source of income for the Sisters, and operated commercially up until 1975. The Laundries have remained largely unused since then, and are currently in a dilapidated state.
Once restored, these cavernous spaces will provide a unique multi-use arts space for Melbourne, while also generating new income for the Convent, helping to grow the Convent’s public programming, and to help secure its future long-term.
Although marking a significant milestone for the Convent, the Abbotsford Convent Foundation acknowledges the sad social history of these buildings, and the impact they had on the lives of the women who worked here, often in harsh and oppressive conditions.
As with any development on the Convent site, it is our intention to respect this history and heritage, while working to develop this space in the future as one which creates positive stories and impact for the community through arts and culture. The ACF is currently working on a heritage interpretation project which will acknowledge the history of the women and girls who resided in the adjoining Sacred Heart building, and who worked in the Laundries.
The ACF also recognises the Wurundjeri People as the traditional custodians of the land and water on which we work and live.
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