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Humble toilet block gets a design makeover

The inside spaces were also disappointing, with Lahz referring to these as three-d’s, ‘dank, dark and dated’.

With a dramatic cliff face, spread over a series of natural and man-made platforms, the site enjoys unimpeded views over headlands.

A winding path also leads to the Mahon Pool (built in the 1930s), one of a number provided along the eastern beaches.

“Public amenities were once seen as a commission that was second rate.”

Architect Annabel Lahz

Taking the brief from Randwick City Council, the objective for lahznimmo architects was to create light and airy amenities and integrate these into the coastal landscape.

“Public amenities were once seen as a commission that was second rate.

The site enjoys unimpeded views over headlands.

The site enjoys unimpeded views over headlands.Credit:Brett Boardman

But you must have noticed how many leading architects now invest the time and energy into creating these buildings: just look at the number entered into the architectural awards,” says Lahz.

The 1960s buildings, one containing the amenities, the other being the club, have been replaced with one sculptural form that bridges the two uses.

Constructed with precast concrete panels, with an exposed rose coloured aggregate, a concrete roof covered in pebbles and anodised-fins bellow, the form is now nestled into its surrounds, framed by coastal scrub.

“We ‘cranked’ the form to the light (orientated to north-east) to increase the light and views over the headland,” says Lahz, who also chose the materials to magnify the effect against the light.

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“The form becomes more animated as the day progresses,” she adds.

Landscape architect Sue Barnsley was as mindful of this unique setting, including a concrete plinth at the base of these amenities that double in part as seating.

Unlike the former arrangement with a row of toilets and basins, here, there are separate toilets and change areas with a communal stainless-steel trough in the centre, the latter open to the elements (secured after hours).

This arrangement is not dissimilar to the public amenities in Centennial Park, also designed by lahznimmo in the early noughties.

“Andrew (Nimmo) and I felt that was a seminal moment in reworking these facilities, with many architects following this path,” says Lahz.

Although the Maroubra amenities are encased within a relatively narrow footprint, the architects were mindful of the landscape from the outset.

“The natural contours of the land really drove the form.

We were also keen to ensure that you didn’t have to encircle the entire building, as was often the case in the 1950s and ‘60s,” says Lahz, referring to the pathway that cuts a swathe through the amenities as people either head to the pool below or the car park above.

“Many of the paths had to be reworked for disability access, but some really led nowhere.”

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While materials such as stainless steel simply remind one of schoolyard troughs and basic public amenities, lahznimmo architects has elevated this basic form.

Here, the stainless steel sink has been beautifully wrapped in the precast concrete, creating an architectural form in the process that forms part of the exterior’s expression.

“We’re coming up to putting our names on eight public facilities.

It’s certainly something that we want to continue to design.

Even when we started, we certainly saw them as an important part of the architectural legacy. Let’s face it, they’re used by virtually everyone at some point,” adds Lahz.

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