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Newton Park Swimming Pool - Mandela Bay Aquatic Centre
Newton Park, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape


Type:Swimming Baths
2011SAIA EC Award for Architecture
2012SAIA Award of Merit
Street:Cnr Worraker and 2nd Ave


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33°56'40.52" S 25°34'21.63 E Alt: 98m

Award for Architecture Citation

The brief required of the architects to convert the existing Newton Park Pool, built in the 1950's, from an open air unheated pool to an indoor heated pool of international standard. Budgetary constraints dictated the retention of the existing concrete grandstand which had to be incorporated within a new clear spanning structure without either imposing additional loads on existing structures or impeding sightlines to the pool.

The architectural resolution devised is innovative, bold and skillfully executed. Finely proportioned tapering off-shutter concrete piers flank the grandstand, divert new structural loads from the existing concrete canopy of the grandstand and provide visual framing to the existing structure. The depth of the main girder provided the opportunity for the introduction of natural light via clerestory lighting. The clear spanning steel trusses sweep down from the main girder to be supported on off-shutter concrete fins at the eaves. The expansive main roof, broken into three distinct planes provides a sense of layering to the interior roof surface and adds interest and articulation to the dominance of the roof form externally. The introduction of a continuous ring of glazing directly under the roof plane lends luminance to the underside of the roof, visually lightens the structure and elevates the enclosed space from being potentially oppressive to one infused with light.

The envelope of the building is composed of glazed panels judiciously interspersed with metal cladding which variously echoes the sweep of the roof structure, acknowledges the new grandstand structural ensemble and celebrates function by allowing clear views of the pool from outside.

The clear and unambiguous use of a limited material palette, strong structural order and simple clean detailing imbue the building with a strong sense of the tectonic and the presence of the building has injected a sense of dynamism and excitement into the otherwise rather drab suburban context of Newton Park.

The architects are to be congratulated on their insightful conceptualisation of the brief and the skilful manner in which this has been translated into built form.

Award of Merit Citation

The introduction of a building envelope around the original Newton Park swimming pool structure creates an internal environment that allows for an expanded yet controlled cross-seasonal use of the swimming pool and related facilities. This new envelope has successfully tackled considerations to energy efficiency, lighting and acoustics. The new 'wing-like' roof affords the centre prominence within its urban context, making it a dignified landmark structure.

To add to this iconic, bold - yet subtle - post-modernist facade geometries and treatments at the knuckle between the old and new structures animate what would likely have been a typical warehouse building into a grand structure that punctuates the surrounding suburban low-rise skyline. The entire structure is expressed as a form of artificial life nestled in a valley within which the serene 'reclining' structure reaches to the sky.

The detailed exposure of the structural elements and metal lattice systems allows one to read the intention of the envelope as an envelope that is sincere to its function without limiting and, or interrupting the activities and operations of the centre. The overall design is executed as a harmoniously poetic tension of a building that anchors the manmade built environment within the valley-like natural landscape.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.