Before choosing 33,000 multicolored new tiles to replace the original Spanish-style roof tiles, Tonkin pored over old black-and-white photos. Visiting the pavilion this week, he said he was “very, very happy” with the result. “It is the most beautiful classic Italianate pavilion.”
From the outset, he had wanted to remove “the horrible yellow plastic dome” over the interior.
Precast columns, which look and feel like massive pieces of seasoned driftwood, hold up a new glass atrium. Large timber beams filter the northern light, provide shade and air, and keep the rain out.
“It is open to naturally ventilate the entire building, and achieve our five-star green rating,” he said.
On the rooftop, 217 solar supply panels 71 per cent of the building’s energy needs.
Tonkin won this year’s top architecture and heritage prizes in NSW for the adaptive reuse of pier 2/3 into an arts center at Walsh Bay. When asked if Bondi Pavilion was another example, he demurred. “This isn’t adaptive reuse. It is just continuing its original use.”
The construction uncovered many signs of the past from those promoting the short-lived Turkish Sea Baths, frescoes in the ballroom (now a theatre), and a safe that nobody can open or crack. Other important historical features were protected, such as an Aboriginal floor mosaic that was a gift from the people of Arnhem Land.
The upgraded pavilion retained its Bondi vibe, Masselos said. It would welcome children coming to ballet classes on the newly sprung floor, community group meetings, the local radio station, and tourists and residents trailing sand off the beach.
It includes a welcome centre, offering concierge-style tourist advice and local council services, and a box office.
The new “Bondi Story Room” includes a wall-size touchscreen map of Bondi. Included in the 300 stories so far is the tale of chemist Max Steele. When attacked by a “15-foot monster shark” Steele was reported to have “gamely swum” to shore where he directed bystanders on how to use a ligature and apply first aid.
It also profiles more famous visitors, including the late Queen, and Margaret Dovey, a young swimming champ who grew up locally and became Margaret Whitlam, the wife of prime minister Gough Whitlam.
The story room also details the area’s Indigenous settlement and the naming of Bondi. It means “thud”, the sound of waves breaking on rocks.
These stories also include details of the campaigns in 1987 and 2017 to prevent the privatization of the pavilion under the banner, “Not a makeover but a takeover”.
Masselos said it had gone way beyond a makeover. “It’s an example of best practice of how you can take an old heritage building and completely repurpose it for the 21st century, have it bristling with tech… Yet it still retains its absolute essence as a heritage building.”
The renovation has also restored heritage-listed views – that run north to south and east to west – through the building.
The removal of the courtyard’s old amphitheater, where the dressing sheds were located for many decades, has created a 2667-square-metre courtyard large enough for 2000 people. It is now called the Garu Courtyard, using the local Dharawal name for northern.
Masselos said visitors to the building, including NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, were shocked to realize the size of the building – nearly 8000 square meters inside and out – following its restoration.
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