Residents of Green Square in Sydney now have a new recreational destination with the recent opening of the Gunyama Park Aquatic & Recreation Centre in the Epsom Park precinct.

The latest addition to the City of Sydney’s recreational assets, the 7,475-square-metre facility is the result of a design collaboration between Andrew Burges Architects, international practice Grimshaw and landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean. The design team was chosen from an international pool of over 150 entries in 2014.

Consisting of an impressive aquatic centre comprising four pools and extensive fitness and wellness facilities, the $106.5-million Gunyama Park Aquatic & Recreation Centre was conceptualised to provide a much needed social recreation space to the growing population of Green Square, which is nearly 40,000 today but is expected to cross 60,000 as the precinct reaches its full development potential.

The design responds to, and evokes First Nations activities on the site, the former Waterloo swamp, which was an important confluence of salt and fresh water for the people of the Eora nation. While the public art references the fresh water gathering vessels called Bengala, the beach-like shoulder for the main pool is reminiscent of Sydney’s famous ocean rockpools.

“We felt there’s a kind of fundamental pleasure in swimming in beach pools and that wasn’t evident in aquatic centres,” said Andrew Burges.

“The site itself was literally unconstructed and because there was no existing condition, it was really important to remake the landscape and the place of where the pool would be. Looking at the beach pools with the goal of rethinking the typology in terms of what kinds of recreational spaces it makes was pretty fundamental to our concept.”

The aquatic centre includes an outdoor 50m pool featuring a beach edge on its northern side, and surrounded by umbrellas, cabanas, bleachers and rocks with boardwalks leading to a 25m indoor pool – one of the largest moving pool floors ever built in Australia. A hydrotherapy pool kept at higher temperatures offers privacy from the more public areas of the facility. The water in the indoor pools is used as an integral element of climate control and minimises energy use. A massive rooftop photovoltaic installation powers the facilities, making Gunyama Park the first recreation centre in Australia to achieve a 5-star Green Star Design and As Built rating.

Environmentally sustainable design principles have been applied to every aspect of the building, helping minimise energy consumption through the integration of natural ventilation, passive solar and co-generation facilities.

“There’s a spine of public facilities within a continuous park, which starts at the town centre and moves across the axis,” said Andrew Cortese, managing partner of Grimshaw’s Sydney studio. “The pool has a really public and civic role in the way that it builds cohesion and community life.”

“Our architects were inspired by Sydney’s much-loved ocean pools, setting the large lap pools within recreational spaces reminiscent of wading at the beach. This is the City’s sixth and largest aquatic centre, right in the middle of Sydney’s fastest growing precincts,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

The collaboration of Andrew Burges Architects and Grimshaw will next deliver the dynamic new Parramatta Aquatic and Leisure Centre situated at May’s Hill in the historic Parramatta Park. This project is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Image Credit: Brett Boardman