Old Canberra Brickworks - Recent History

Thor’s Hammer has been designing and making furniture and recycling timber from the old Canberra Brickworks since 1994. We have custom built our operation to work around the old kilns and workshops, making great use of the somewhat difficult spaces, and always enjoying the amazing atmosphere of the heritage site.

The Brickworks operated from 1913 until 1976.  Since the Brickworks’ closure, it has had a rich history as a creative space for artisans, artists and other community uses. Because Canberra is such a new and tightly planned city, there have been few spaces where these kind of innovative and creative uses could occur.  Stewart Brand in his book How Buildings Learn, describes the way old industrial spaces like the Brickworks continue to give huge value to society.  He categorises this kind of space as the “Low Road” for long term building value.  “Most of the world’s work is done in Low Road buildings, and even in rich societies the most inventive creativity, especially youthful creativity, will be found in Low Road buildings, taking full advantage of the licence to try things.”

Here is a selection of some of the uses the Brickworks has had since its closure in 1976 (from earliest to most recent):

~1986-1996  Antiques & Furniture Restoration

There were up to 6 businesses in the kilns and office spaces at the southern entrance of the Brickworks.  These included Virgo’s Old Wares (architect Theo Bischoff), Lightning Rod Antiques (Clark Mueller), Harlequin Antiques (Andrew Whitehead), Nicky’s Antiques, Seaward Antiques, Rose Cottage Antiques and Lasseter’s Gallery.  These businesses were open on weekends and had a big fair every Easter.

1988-98  Brickworks Design Studio

Established by ANU Art School graduates Tom Harrington and Mark Spain, the Brickworks Design Studio was focussed on working in timber.  The first projects were undertaken for the interior design and fit out of the New Parliament House.  The workshop continued producing works for commercial and domestic clients in fine woodwork with artisans including Paul O’Donnell, Kate Cooke, Bruce Egan and Johnno Everett.

1989-96 Splinters Theatre Company

Splinters used the Brickworks space for set construction, rehearsals and the development of over 60 productions performed in Canberra and around Australia.  Splinters also mounted Whirled on a Fatal Floor at the Brickworks site as part of the 1989 Canberra Fringe Festival.  Splinters was a cutting edge theatre of spectacle performance group and included artists such as David Branson, Tanya Eccleston, Melissa Edwards, Clint Hurrell, Anne-Marie Sinclair, Ross Cameron, Niel Roberts, Luhsun Tan, Patrick Troy, Stuart Vaskess (and many more!), and performance groups including Odd Productions, Snuff Puppets, Aktion Surreal, Sidewinder and Triclops.

1989-98  Stuart Vaskess

Metal art creations.  Prop and set construction for Splinters. Now runs a travelling installation and performance venue called The Village.

1990 - current  Peter Vandermark - Sculptor - For more information go to Olsen Irwin Gallery

1990-2000  Paul Lynzaat

Paul developed a trailer mounted rammed earth block machine and blocks were supplied to build many houses in the Canberra region.  Public buildings included the Tidninbilla Visitors Centre, where in collaboration with Mathew Harding, custom blocks were produced with a raised Bogong Moth pattern.  Paul also collaborated with Peter Vandermark’s sculpture Shadow of a Doubt installed in Commonwealth Gardens.

1990?  Film – John Lark produced an NVE movie at the Brickworks in the early 1990’s.

1992 – 2005  Marie Hagerty

Marie painted in an upper floor studio at the Brickworks.  For more information go to Olsen Irwin Gallery

1994-98 Gallery Fred

Exhibitions of artists including Stuart Vaskess, Peter Vandermark, Adam Herbst, Splinters 10th year program launch and many other artists.

1994- current  Thor's Hammer

1998  Spices 

A large scale installation / journey / dance performance work created by Clare Dyson and Rachel Jennings. For more information go to pandora.nla.gov.au or realtimearts.net

2011- current  Geoff Farquhar-Still

Public Art, bespoke interactive playground equipment, exhibition work and prototype design.  Employing a flexible team of artisans and industrial designers including Dan Lorrimer, and Mitchell Brookes, gold and silver smith Sean Booth and ex UAP pattern maker Matt Smith among a range of other Canberra creatives, Artillion has produced significant work for both Canberra and Sydney. Collaborating with architects, engineers landscape architects and a range of local industry to develop bespoke responses to urban design, architectural and public art briefs.

If you or someone you know worked at the Old Brickworks whether when it was running as a brickworks, or after its closure in 1976, please get in touch as we are putting together a history.