Hornsby Aquatic Centre - designed for a swimming experience like no other in Australia

Wednesday, 07 August, 2013 | Supplied by: Peter Hunt Architect

Pool+Spa has been following the construction of the Hornsby Aquatic Centre for the past 10 months. In this instalment, Pool+Spa speaks with Michael Cook, from Peter Hunt Architect, who was responsible for the design of the new aquatic centre.

What was the brief given to you by the team at the Hornsby Council for the new aquatic centre?

The brief was to develop a new aquatic centre to replace the deteriorating existing centre that responded to the needs of the community within a site with specific planning and heritage considerations. From the beginning of the project it was envisaged that the centre would incorporate a 50 m outdoor pool with grandstand, indoor learn-to-swim and splash pools, amenities, plant and, most importantly, on-site parking, which the existing centre didn’t provide.

The brief and final configuration of aquatic activities included in the centre was developed through an intensive community consultation program using a group of distilled concept plans developed by the design team and client over the previous six-month period.

What look and feel did the client want and how do you feel your design will achieve this?

Hornsby Shire Council conveyed that the building needed to sit harmoniously with the site and work to reconnect the two sections of Hornsby Park, being the Heritage Park facing the Pacific Highway and bush reserve to the west, and Old Man Valley bushland reserve beyond. In the design we considered multiple siting options and through client communication developed a scheme that placed the building to the south end of the site allowing the more desirable northern end to be opened up.

Roof lines were kept low to fit within the park setting and reduce the bulk and scale. In addition, by placing the outdoor pool at the northern end and developing floor levels it would provide clear views from the park, through the pool area and into the bushland beyond. The new northern facilities would, therefore, not interrupt the continuous visual link of park leading to bushland. Studies were undertaken to review the placement of the grandstand shade structure to understand its impact on these view corridors.

How were interior and exterior finishes selected?

As a starting point, we came to our client with suggested materials and finishes that in our experience of numerous aquatic projects have performed the best. We then discussed the nature of each finish; what feel the client wanted; cleaning regimes; safety and accessibly issues; to finally arrive at mutually agreed selections. Pool environments are particularly harsh on all finishes and much care and research is undertaken to confirm expected performance of any finish we specify. We are always open to new options where performance can be improved.

When designing the new aquatic centre, what challenges did you face and how were these overcome?

The biggest challenge with the design of the new aquatic centre for Hornsby Council was the site itself. The west side of the building site drops dramatically into the bushland reserve below, making access to this side of the building very limited for future maintenance and also creating a bushfire hazard that needed to be addressed. Challenges also included the various heritage considerations and the need to develop on-site parking, which was not incorporated in the original 1950s design.

Through consultation with our design team and the client, we developed a series of design responses that took advantage of the sloping site by elevating and suspending the pool deck with a parking level underneath. The design team developed strategies that reduced maintenance as much as possible to inaccessible areas and responded appropriately to the various heritage issues in the form and siting of the building.

What is your favourite design element of this project and why?

The position of the building and the way it comfortably sits between the heritage park to the east and the natural bushland valley to the west will provide a swimming experience in the outdoor 50 m pool like no other in Australia.

What is your experience in designing aquatic centres? What do you feel is the most important element when designing an aquatic centre?

We have designed over 26 aquatic sporting and leisure facilities throughout Australia in the last 18 years, starting with Hurstville Aquatic Centre in Sydney in 1995, for which we’ve recently completed an expansion. Other recent projects include the redevelopment of Beatty Park in Perth; Parramatta War Memorial Swimming Pool in Sydney; Next Generation Fitness in Kings Park, WA; Bathurst Aquatic Centre in regional NSW; and Aquamotion in Wanneroo, WA.

We believe the right mix of aquatic activities to suit the needs of the local and wider community is the most important design element. This drives all elements that follow to deliver a successful project.

Aquatic centres are complex and unique buildings with multiple specialists involved in their design and delivery. Experienced and knowledgeable design consultants will intuitively develop intelligent responses that address critical issues of corrosion resistance, durability, functionality and longevity in the buildings they deliver.

Construction update

Raymond Huzij, Project Manager, Major Buildings at Hornsby Shire Council, says that the project is progressing well.

ADCO has poured sections of the car park floor slab to the northern side of the site and the formwork is being erected for the northern third of the 50 m pool. “A lot of work has been completed in ground with the installation of stormwater lines and pits, which will then allow further sections of the car park floor slab to be poured.

Having the swimming pools supported over the car park requires the structure to be constructed very precisely. It is critical that all the waterproofing elements within the structure are exactly in the correct locations.

To ensure that the contractors are fully aware of what needs to be done in constructing the pools, a full-sized sample has been constructed on the northern side of the site. This has allowed everyone to understand what the requirements are - what elements need to go where and how they are all fixed together. It also highlighted areas that have very tight tolerances that need to be achieved with the construction of the final pool structure.

There is an overall positive attitude over the entire site as everyone can see the project developing on a daily basis. Community feedback is very positive at the present time. With all the activities on site and the comings and goings of innumerable trucks - we have had no complaints lodged since before Christmas.

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