The MONA Pavilions
A mention of a sojourn in Tasmania conjures images of lush wilderness, cosy bed & breakfasts and Devonshire teas. But for those looking for a getaway that combines world-class architecture, impeccable design and ground-breaking art, there exists another side to the Tasmanian experience, in the form of The MONA Pavilions. Located at Moorilla Winery just on the outskirts of Hobart, MONA is named so for the Museum of Old and New Art – a paradigm-challenging gallery that houses the art collection of Moorilla’s owner, and Australia’s largest private art collector, David Walsh. Designed in 2008 by architect Nonda Katsalidis, the row of eight sleek pavilions were inspired by the shape of shipping containers and the A-frame houses of the 1960s. And ever since they took up residence on the banks of the Derwent River, these abodes have become one of Australia’s best-kept boutique travel secrets.
The rental car rumbles up through the dirt road that incises the perfectly manicured vineyards. Ducklings frolic amongst the emerald green vines, hurrying clumsily after their mother. The afternoon sunlight glistens like precious stones on the surface of the Derwent River.
An intriguing feat of architecture is perched regally at the top of the hill. Stark, with its sleek metallic exterior, the designer cellar door of this winery is far from the charming little country nooks of other wineries throughout Tasmania. It’s instantly apparent that this establishment has more than just wine production on its agenda.
After checking in at the grand edifice, which also doubles as the hotel reception, we pile into a golf cart and are chauffeured to our domicile. On the way we glide past the line of MONA’s designer pavilions, named after 20th-century architects and 20th-century Australian painters. Our residence for the weekend is Walter, named after Walter Burley Griffin. The first in the stately row of glass and steel cubes that stand resplendent overlooking the Derwent River, Walter possesses the qualities that many would have listed as those of their dream home.
What awaits us behind Walter’s front door is a paragon of intuitive living. Just inside is a panel dedicated to perfecting the ambience of your abode to your exact liking. First, we select our music from the extensive library consisting of different musical genres. Jazz is what ails us today and soon the soothing rhythms of Miles Davis fill the space (there’s also a personal music panel in each bedroom and bathroom). Next, we fiddle with the lighting and temperature, as well as the enormous blinds that cover three sides of the pavilion, which, when raised, allow the occupants to really know how people who live in glass houses feel.
The decor of the pavilion is clearly the product of a shrewd eye for design. We soon realise we are in the company of some of the world’s most celebrated designers. On the front deck sit Ross Lovegrove’s Supernatural chairs, while Philippe Starck lamps spill light across the bedrooms. The bookstand is as carefully curated as the rest of the space. Not a Gideon’s Bible in sight here, but instead an extensive list of reading for fuelling the imagination and challenging the psyche: Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion; Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy; S Brent Plate’s Blasphemy: Art that Offends … the list goes on.
When the moonlight begins to nudge our windows, we head back up to the cellar door to sample the delicacies of Moorilla’s restaurant, The Source. Now under the helm of chef Philippe Jacques Leban, the restaurant – one of the jewels of Hobart’s dining scene – combines fresh local produce with a French influence. A jovial buzz permeates the space, as diners wax lyrical about the food and wine.
The next morning, I awaken to sunlight streaming into my studio-style bedroom on Walter’s top floor. The local birds serenade me, while the surrounding gumtrees sway in the breeze, their leaves rustling fervently. If it weren’t for the expanse of my king-sized bed and the 400-thread count sheets I am nestled in, the presence of nature makes it feel as though I could be waking up in a tent in the wilderness. But the morning is too glorious to spend tucked away in bed. I pad in to the ensuite, select my soundtrack, and let the warmth of the generous rain shower head spill over me. The gentle spice of Aesop products flirts delicately with the steam and, as I gaze out the window, I catch a glimpse of a pair of cotton-tailed bunnies playing in the morning light.
After breakfast, we wander the grounds, hoping to get a peek into the art gallery, which – much to our dismay – is closed for the day. But our crafty attempts to explore are thwarted by MONA’s strictly instructed staff. Instead, our interest is piqued even further by all the stories we hear about the gallery’s contents – an entire floor dedicated to Sidney Nolan, a sex and death gallery, and facilities to handle effluent from an art piece.
Though disappointed, we find a worthy substitute in the wine tasting at the cellar door. Our host takes us on a palatable journey through Moorilla’s wines and its boutique beer, Moo Brew. A few hours and much indecision later, we leave with a bounty of bottles.
Sated, we head back to Walter for an afternoon of relaxation. While my friend opts for a soak in the lavish spa bath (complete with built-in TV), I wander up to the heated infinity lap pool that looks out over the banks of the river. As I stroke leisurely through the perfectly warmed water, my only company is the wildlife outside frolicking in the scrub.
As the afternoon glow sets in, we make the most of Walter’s company, lounging about reading the paper and leafing through the collection of books. Hobart sits nearby just waiting to be explored, but it’s impossible to tear ourselves from the haven of design we are calling home for the weekend.
For further information visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or contact the Mr & Mrs Smith travel team on 1300 89 66 27.