It can seem all too easy for pool construction services to fall back into their old habits and build facilities that don’t capture the eye or draw in prospective patrons. While the general shape of Olympic-sized lap pools is more or less fixed, the surrounding structures or additional swimming areas don’t have to be hampered by pre-conceived notions of what a pool should look like. However, the trick is making unique form mesh with accessible function – something experimental designers always seem to miss.
That’s why when Sydney, Australia, announced that it would be fielding entries for a design competition to select the final form of a new aquatics facility in the city’s Green Square district, architectural firm Surry Hills resisted all the too conventional or too abstract pool construction designs. Instead, architect Andrew Burges drew up a 96,875-square foot facility with four featured swimming areas. Burges’ design proved so popular with Sydney city executives that it was selected as the official look of a new $50 million aquatics center, Business Insider reported.
Swimming in Sydney
American Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin have collected medals like magnets in recent years, but before the U.S. rose to prominence as an international swimming powerhouse, Australia was arguably the world’s leader in aquatic sports. According to Swimming Australia, the Land Down Under has the second highest number of Olympic gold medals in swimming at 58 – almost half of Australia’s combined 135 first-place finishes.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sydney is ready to throw big bucks to build a new aquatics center. After soliciting designs from the public, Surry Hills’ Burges managed to win the hearts and minds of city officials and Australians everywhere with his innovative, expansive design.
Pool and Spa Review explained that the new facility will be the largest built in all of Australia since the country hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. It will feature an 50-meter rectangular pool for lap swimming and a 25-meter shallow pool for swimming lessons and beginners who just want to practice on their own. The facility will also house several therapeutic spas, a fully-outfitted gym and an outdoor synthetic playing field. However, the crown jewel of the proposed design has to be the outdoor, irregularly shaped combined wading-and-lap pool. Bruges told ABC Australia that he was inspired by his country’s natural landscape to design a pool that mimicked natural beauty without sacrificing practical function.
“I think our idea was really trying to almost graft some of the elements of the beach and coastal pools into a much more urban situation, so we just felt that as an idea would create a much broader community appeal to the pool, so it wasn’t just for fitness fanatics or people swimming laps,” Bruges said. “It’s almost quite a Sydney take of how the beach works and how the pools at the edge of the beaches work.”
Officials currently estimate that the Green Square Aquatics Center will cost roughly $50 million to construct. The city plans to have the facility up and running by 2017.
The city of Sydney allowed the public to vote on their favorite designs and lists the five finalists on its website. While every entry would have produced a visually striking and functional facility, none exhibited the commitment to community inclusiveness like Burges’.
Green Square was once a heavily industrialized part of Sydney, but thanks to a municipal initiative that’s transforming more than 278 hectares of land, Green Square will soon boast housing for 48,000 Australians and office spaces for 22,000 workers. Because the neighborhood is still undergoing significant physical and cultural changes, Sydney officials wanted the winning pool design to include ways to incorporate different parts of Australian society into a single facility.
“I’m a regular swimmer at places like the Bronte pool, Bondi Icebergs and just that sense in which those places allow simultaneously a really broad cross section of people to use them,” Bruges told ABC Australia. “That really struck a chord with me as a starting point to start thinking about aquatic centers.”
Bruges’ design has several scenic overlooks of the rest of the facility to create a connected feeling among patrons. The variety of pools also allows swimmers of differing abilities to all enjoy the same space at the same time.