Gunyama Park Aquatic & Recreation Centre in Sydney, Australia

featured in sb magazine 6/2021
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Beach in the city

published in sb magazine 6/2021


The aquatic centre comprises four pools and extensive fitness and wellness facilities and is the centrepiece of a major new recreational project in the Green Square district. The architecturally impressive site brings a hub of green, open space and recreation to this former industrial area. The design sees the seamless integration of an urban beach pool into a park and surrounding native landscape inspired by the area’s former wetlands.


Originating in the need to provide open space and recreation facilities to the growing population in the intensively developed Green Square, the project will today serve a precinct which
numbers close to 40,000 residents. As Green Square reaches its full development potential, over 60,000 residents are envisioned, making it one of Australia’s most densely developed new areas. The community has been extensively engaged with the development of the centre, contributing to its functionality and amenity.

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photo: Brett Boardman

Good to know

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photo: Brett Boardman

Sydney, Australia

City of Sydney

Belgravia Leisure

Andrew Burges Architects

AU – Surry Hills NSW 2010

AU – Sydney NSW 2000

Andrew Burges Architects

Brett Boardman

Official opening
February 2021

Construction costs
68 million EUR

Echoing the former Waterloo swamp

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photo: Brett Boardman

Following a successful stage-one competition entry in 2013, Andrew Burges Architects invited international practice Grimshaw and landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean to form the team for the second stage of the competition.

 The design is a response to and evocation of 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. The public art references the fresh water gathering vessels called Bengala. The design of a beach-like shoulder for the main pool is reminiscent of Sydney’s famous ocean rockpools. There is also reference to the industrial character of the adjacent Zetland and Alexandria suburbs where factory buildings featured repetitive bays, sawtooth roofs and large-scale structures, echoed in the large and sweeping spans present on the upper level.

Bringing the beach pool into an aquatic centre

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photo: Brett Boardman

The entire project was conceived as an integrated proposition of a park, aquatic centre and recreation centre with a coherent and coordinated design language used throughout the entire site. The embedding of the facilities in the landscape is a key element of this design language which also translates into the green roofs and the extensive use of berms around the structures.

 “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 a 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.“

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photo: Brett Boardman

A 50 m outdoor pool features a beach edge on its northern side and is surrounded by umbrellas, cabanas, bleachers and rocks with boardwalks leading to a 25 m indoor pool which features one of the largest moving pool floors ever built in Australia. Adjacent to this is a hydrotherapy pool kept at higher temperatures and cloistered 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. Those roofs that are not green roofs house a massive photovoltaic array providing power – the project is the first recreation centre in Australia to achieve a “5-star Green Star Design and As Built” rating. The environmentally sustainable design principles have been applied to every aspect of the building and achieve unprecedented levels of minimal energy consumption through the incorporation of natural ventilation, passive solar and co-generation facilities.

Bathing and leisure facilities

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photo: Brett Boardman

  • 50 m heated outdoor pool set within a larger, irregularly shaped beach pool
  • 25 m heated indoor program pool for swimming lessons
  • Indoor leisure pool with a range of interactive toys, including water spraying devices and tipping buckets
  • Heated hydrotherapy pool
  • Health and fitness centre and covered outdoor yoga deck
  • Crèche with indoor and outdoor play areas
  • Full-size outdoor synthetic multipurpose sports playfield
  • Fully equipped gymnasium and outdoor training circuit
  • Outdoor playground and boardwalk
  • Plants and landscaping inspired by the area’s Indigenous heritage

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