It offers respite, relaxation and play, both in its sport and leisure facilities and in its tranquil landscape of water gardens, eucalypt stands, play areas and community gardens. Within this landscape a wide green playing field stretches out across the centre of the park; looking west, the curving colourful contours of the Aquatic Centre rises out of the ground; its three large beacons punctuate the Green Square Civic Spine and create a new landmark for an evolving community.
On approach the Aquatic Centre appears to float, with a perimeter truss on the first floor allowing its weight to be supported by a reduced number of columns hidden within large floor-to-ceiling “Rocks”.
Entering via Rose Valley Way, the main pedestrian path from the metro and train stations, the visitor enters into a double height hall signaling a transition, from street to pool, with minimal corridors and maximum connection to the combined pool environment. Program is intuitively organized with change rooms to the left, café and lounges to the right. A circular flight of stairs ascends to the gym, administration and other related program. Here voids over the pools pull light from the beacons above down into both levels below.
The ground level is designed to subtly fuse programmed and unprogrammed landscapes, with pool activities merging into both the water gardens and a lawn dotted with umbrellas. The pool concourse is low (3m high) framing the view to the surrounding water garden, with a reflective ceiling pulling both light and nature into the pool environment. The blurred territories of indoor and outdoor are enhanced by the reflective ceiling, upending the ‘vanishing pool’ with gum trees, water garden and lawn appearing to merge seamlessly with the building’s soffit.
Security and safety is satisfied with a partially operable perimeter façade, while the visual effect of the pool fence is mitigated by the surrounding pond landscape. The pool area is surrounded by lawn and a water garden landscape featuring indigenous planting and ponds stocked with fish.
An Active Link is located along the full length of the easement connecting Zetland Avenue with Rose Valley Way and acts to mediate the informal natural landscape of the water gardens and the synthetic flat expanse of the playing field. This ribbon of activities provides for bocce, gym stations, basketball hoop, table tennis and street skate equipment. Easement restrictions are fully acknowledged with all equipment being lightweight and removable and flood movement unimpeded.
The scheme accepts the size and location as briefed, with a part-shaded warm up area to the south and a line of trees running along the field’s western perimeter where spectators sit. The position of the Aquatic Centre café on the eastern side of the building also provides viewing opportunities as well as easy access to coffee and tea in break time.
The southeast corner is dedicated to playing and growing people and plants, surrounded in tall shady gums. This area will be divided between active play to the west and passive water/nature play and community garden to the east. A hill is formed where kids seek adventure and challenge and where verticality is provided in an otherwise flat landscape. There are slides, water play and flying foxes, and a kiosk/community garden shed. A grouping of trees surrounds the play area, intended to stretch north to become a modest but verdant urban forest with species selected to generate a rich habitat for indigenous birdlife. A central grassed and slightly recessed clearing will provide respite and an opportunity for more passive and reflective activities.
Running along the southern boundary a wide meandering walkway distinguishes itself from the more formal Zetland Avenue. Here, shade structures provide seating and amenity for pedestrians, which in turn generates additional security through enhanced foot traffic.
Architects: Thierry Lacoste, David Stevenson
Landscape architects: JMD Design-Anton James, Sally Craven
Critic: Citylab- Andrew Mckenzie
Structure: ARUP – Xavier Nuttall