Rather than just the choice of one swimming pool, there are four: an outdoor 50-metre long pool, an indoor 25-metre pool and a children’s play pool, along with a hydrotherapy pool.
“We also looked at the geometry of the site and each pool, intent to make the design more of a watery landscape,” says Cortese, who worked with landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) on this project.
TCL took a similar approach with its interpretation of the landscape, creating organic-shaped garden beds and a rooftop garden above the building that contains the main point of entry/reception, the gymnasium, the cafe and amenities such as change-rooms.
While there are beautifully appointed timber-lined change-rooms, there are also cabana-style pod-like change areas dotted around the pools.
“You need to provide a broader variety of change-rooms today, not only with gender in mind, but also for people who feel more comfortable dressing on their own,” says Burges. However, while providing a choice of change-rooms and swimming options was at the forefront of the architects’ minds, so was the need to create a strong community centre.
The cafe and lounge area on the perimeter allows locals to catch up, work informally by plugging in their laptops, or simply combine work with pleasure and have a swim in the mix.
The lines of a playground and swimming pool also merge, with the 25-metre indoor pool for children embedded with bright and extensive play equipment such as slides.
When younger children need to use the pool, there is the option of adjusting the pool’s floor to change its depth.
The other concern of the architects was to provide indoor areas, such as the children’s swimming pool, with a sense of being outdoors.
As a result, there’s an ETFE roof, made from polyethylene that creates a soft and diffused light (similar to the one used by Grimshaw for the roof of Southern Cross station in Melbourne).
And although the site was formerly flat, it now features an undulated-roofed building and terrain.
Gentle arches also appear within the complex, combined with canvas awnings that cover the change-rooms.
Although the architects didn’t have to deal with swampland, it was a challenging project given the need to deliver an extensive program of amenities without the benefit of creating basement levels (due to the site’s existing watertables).
However, there are reminders of the history’s site, including the work of Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones, who produced a sculpture called The Bangala, evocative of palm leaves once used to carry fresh water.