A reimagined Bathers Pavilion enables living heritage architecture ensuring its social benefit and commercial viability.
The North Beach Bathers Pavilion is a state heritage listed item built in 1938 in the City of Wollongong, 100 kilometres south of Sydney. The Bathers Pavilion reflects the beach-going culture of the 20th century, which had developed from the restrictive, gender segregated ocean bathing of the 19th century. The Pavilion is an example of the Interwar Functionalist style of architecture.
Built over the sand and requiring remedial works, the Pavilion has been developed by Wollongong City Council as a public facility in an overall upgrade of the coastal strip known as the ‘Blue Mile'.
The adaptive reuse of the North Beach Bathers Pavilion was completed in September 2012. The design concept was to insert a transparent box into the open-air spaces of the building with minimal interference to the existing exposed brick fabric. The detailed design approach, given the corrosive beach environment, was to use a stainless steel structure of square hollow sections with rigid, bolted connections. Floor levels were adjusted to maximise restaurant views over the public promenade. To interpret the former colliery rail line that ran through the site, a special line of tiles was set within the floor that traced the railway tracks. The area is glass roofed but is essentially open to the elements.
The new restaurant area located in the other wing is an elongated space with back-of-house service areas to the rear side, and a beachside view along the other side that extends the visual space. For summer, the seaside façade has motor controlled, glass louvres at high and low levels to regulate air flow, and a sun controlled glass roof. For winter, a hydronic floor heating system is used to heat the space.
A new promenade was constructed to the beachside elevation that replicated the basement level of the existing facade, allowing the public full access around the pavilion and tying in with the ‘Blue Mile' public pathway. The promenade structure also acts as a sea wall that protects the Pavilion from high tide surges from the sea. The insertion of public uses into the North Beach Bathers Pavilion ensures it is of social benefit, commercially viable and maintains a heritage item as living architecture.