The redeveloped Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre is ready for business, just in time for the summer.

Originally built in 1968, the aquatic facility located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs went through a complete renewal, with the $63.5 million redevelopment designed by Warren and Mahoney focussed on creating improved health and wellbeing outcomes for the community.

The City of Darebin recently opened the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre (NARC), unveiling an aspirational new benchmark that represents the next generation in community aquatic facilities with 100% electric operations. Designed around community, sustainability and ecological balance, NARC is the blueprint for future aquatic leisure hubs.

Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre

Spread across an area of 8,100 square metres, the fit-for-purpose centre includes an indoor learn-to-swim pool, 25m lap pool, kids’ splash park, adult bathing area with sauna and steam rooms, a café, separate spaces for group exercise, and a 50m outdoor pool set amongst native plantings and a grove of longstanding gumtrees.

Warren and Mahoney’s design for NARC responds to the City of Darebin’s declared state of climate emergency, with the 6-Star Green Star facility stepping away from the traditional reliance on gas and using electrical heat pumps that harness solar energy during the day, while a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) provides renewably sourced power during the evening.

According to Warren and Mahoney associate principal and project architect, Brett Diprose, the centre’s design, which is built on delivering exemplary leisure facilities and sustainability, also prioritises inclusion.

“Accessibility and balance are ideas that sit at the heart of this design and have been executed brilliantly by our construction partners, KANE. The breadth of facilities, the layout – including a specific adult-only bathing area, expansive foyer café and sprawling grounds surrounding the outdoor pool – enables this centre to truly act as a community hub,” Diprose explains.

"Landscaping, delivered by Normark Landscapes and designed by Arcadia Landscape Architecture, is meticulously delivered. Internally, the selected materials offer a cool, light-colour palette to create a relaxing environment. The children's splash park features playful platypus motifs, within a stylised riparian environment to create a brightly coloured playground.

“The commitment to the ecological balance is symbolically marked with the large kingfisher on the external façade of the building. During our project consultation with Wurundjeri elders, we came to learn of how the kingfisher will select their home; they will only create a nest in a place where there is ecological balance. And that is what the design and operations of this facility aim to deliver."

The facility also accommodates multipurpose spaces for gym equipment, exercise classes, spin classes, a child safe program with a secure dedicated landscape environment, and community groups to meet. The materials palette has a natural focus with mass timber being used for the structure of the main swimming hall and its striking timber ceiling.

Mayor of Darebin, Cr Julie Williams said that NARC’s opening aligned with Council’s commitment to expand opportunities for participation and social connection through sport, physical activity, and other leisure activities.

"NARC is designed for the whole community. It's a fully accessible facility with ramps into all pools and a lift to the first floor. The facility will also include change rooms with dedicated spaces for accessibility,” Williams said.

"The facility is targeting a 6 Star Green Star rating, demonstrating Council’s commitment to – and leadership in – climate action, and in delivering innovative environmentally sustainable projects.”

Facilities management company Clublinks will be operating the facility for the City of Darebin.

Photos by Tom Roe