Friday, December 31, 2010

Brisbane's 'sophisticated' Centenary Pool

In rainy Brisbane over Christmas, we dropped into the Centenary Aquatic Centre on Gregory Terrace in inner city Spring Hill.  Designed by James Birrell, Brisbane City Council's principal architect from 1955 to 1961, this complex was considered highly innovative and sophisticated in its design when it opened in 1959.

In particular its elevated modular restaurant which overlooks the complex's 50-metre pool, diving pool with diving tower and wading pool, was singled out as cutting edge and very modern.  Now a gym rather than a restaurant the space-age structure reminds me of The Jetsons' skypad apartment from the 1960s cartoon. 

While most public pools being constructed across Australia in the late 50s and 60s tended to have an "almost militaristic insistence on order and regularity", James Birrell arranged the Centenary Centre's three pools in a random manner so that a "festive air is developed". 

Influenced by modern artists such as Hans Arp and South American architect Oscar Niemeyer, Birrell wanted the Centenary Pool to be a work of art rather than a purely functionalist structure. In 1960 a Melbourne art and architecture magazine selected it as one of the top ten buildings in Australia. Nearly 50 years later it was featured in the Powerhouse Museum's exhibition, Modern Times: the untold story of modernism in Australia.

Built to commemorate Brisbane and Queensland's 1959 centenary celebrations, it was the city's principal aquatic centre until the Sleeman Sports Complex at Chandler opened in 1980.

While today the centre is looking a bit tired and more retro than sophisticated, it is still a nice place to take a dip with well-ordered lap swimming, clean change-rooms and friendly, welcoming staff.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A kaleidoscope of colours at Annette's pool

When I was at the new Annette Kellermann Aquatic Centre 10 days ago I captured some amazing reflections in the water.

There were so many beautiful colours, patterns and shimmery shapes it reminded me of looking through a kaleidoscope.

The vibrant greens, yellows, oranges and reds of the newly opened aquatic centre took on new shades  reflected in the water.

The pool became a dreamy world of purple, mauve, soft greens, pale pink, faded red, light yellows and blue.

Just the sort of seductive space Marrickville-born Annette Kellermann would have enjoyed diving into during her days performing across Europe and the United States as the Australian Mermaid and Diving Venus in the early 1900s.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Colourful centre opens in Enmore

There was a real sense of excitement when the new Annette Kellermann Aquatic Centre opened its doors for the first time yesterday. Locals streamed into the indoor complex which includes an 8-lane, 50 metre pool, a children's leisure pool and a hydrotherapy and program pool.

Some just came to have a look; others, especially the children couldn't wait to get in the water. There were squeals of delight throughout the $18 million facility. Little ones and big ones loved the wading pool with cascading water spouts raining down on them.

There was standing room-only in the middle-sized program pool where mums and dads played with their kids or watched them as they duck-dived through each other's legs, did handstands or floated about on noodles and kickboards. In the 50-metre pool there was just as much fun happening with boys and girls diving off the blocks, bombing and flipping, while a few adults lapped up and down the pool.

It's a place of vibrancy and colour, the new Annette Kellermann Aquatic Centre.  There's splashes of colour everywhere from the lime green beams on the internal roof, to the yellow and orange feature walls, multi-coloured lane ropes and striped, spotty and flowered shower doors.

It's a much improved version of the old Enmore Pool (closed in July 2009) with better ventilation and loads of natural light beaming in through large areas of glass throughout. The creative use of colour gives the centre an atmosphere of fun, daring and diversity, which seems to fit well with the character of the inner west community.

As Sue from Leichhardt said: "It feels like Marrickville. It is a reflection of Marrickville with all the different types of people (who live here). I like the feel of it. It has a villagey atmosphere not like the big city pools that seem more corporate."

Another plus for Sue is the hot showers and that it's not a 'poser pool'. "You don't have to feel self conscious here," she said.

Long-time Enmore residents' Merle and Thelma also dropped in for a look. While Merle has been a keen swimmer in the past she said these days she can get into a pool but has trouble getting out.

Tempted to return to the water after seeing the new complex, Merle said: "I think I could still get into my cossie."  With disabled access in both the Olympic-size pool and the program pool, we might see Merle and Thelma back in the swim.

As well as the aquatic facilities, the centre has a pleasant outdoor sitting area with tables and chairs with umbrellas, which overlooks lovely Enmore Park. There is also a grassy area where a few teenage girls lay on their towels and enjoyed a chat in the sun.

The complex also has gym facilities where a variety of fitness programs including yoga, pilates, strength training and cardio equipment will be held. And perhaps most importantly, there will be a cafe which will be accessible to both park and pool users.

All-in-all the centre is a great addition to the Marrickville Municipality. Annette Kellermann, the Marrickville-born swimmer, aquatic performer and film actress would be proud to have it bear her name.

The Annette Kellermann Aquatic Centre is located in Black Street, Marrickville. It is open from 6am-8pm Monday to Thursday, 6am-6.30pm on Saturdays and from 8am-6.30pm on Sundays.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lovely lap pools at Blueys Beach

Exploring the streets of Blueys Beach near Forster on the NSW mid-north coast last week, we discovered a number of laps pools hiding by the side of very flash holiday houses. 

For me, it was a bit like discovering a piece of treasure. One pool was perched on the edge of bushland, surrounded by soaring gum trees. No one was swimming on the rainy afternoon we walked by, but there were plenty of leaves and bark immersed in the waters of the sleek, rectangular space

As we walked down the hill towards Boomerang Beach, we caught a glimpse of another lap pool stretched along the side of a luxurious home.  The house seemed empty but as we gazed down on the pool, the water in the spa began to move.

It would have been nice to dive in and test the waters of the narrow space. But we weren't invited. Instead we headed back to Blueys Beach for an invigorating dip in the surprisingly cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.