AWARD FOR ENDURING ARCHITECTURE
AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF SPORT SWIMMING POOL CENTRE - DARYL JACKSON PTY LTD 1982
The design excellence of this building was recognised in the 1984 RAIA National Awards with the Sir Zelman Cowen Award, after it received the ACT Chapterís Canberra Medallion. Its purpose was to provide training facilities to be used by elite swimmers attending the Australian Institute of Sport and the citizens of Canberra.
The architect Daryl Jackson responded to the NCDC development plan for the site, which faced the visually-active National Indoor Stadium and sat beside a Gymnastics Hall, both by Philip Cox. The more distant landscape backdrop was natural bush. A fifty-metre pool of constant depth was provided, which was to be fast, to ensure its world class standing and provided flexible seating for 650 spectators. The innovative features of this pool included an overhead crane for video tracking swimmers, a bulkhead which could be shifted quickly, underwater windows and a continuous weir to prevent backwash. Also provided for was a 25-metre warm-up pool, and weight-training facilities and service areas.
Daryl Jackson created an elegant, reclining building, with a bull-nosed stepped roof, the form of which mirrored the activities within it, and had two references to the nearby Cox buildings - trusses, post-tensioned to the earth mound, which penetrated the wall skin and expressed the structure, and overstated rainwater heads and collection sumps. The smooth skin of the building was coloured blue-green at the base, lightened progressively up to pale grey in horizontal bands, which picked up the palette of the bush. The steel structure was also expressed in the interior, where there was a similar colour scheme. Walls of glass facing north-east allowed winter sunlight to stream in.
The centre served all its users and society well from 1982 to 2006, when the adjacent Australian Institute of Sport Testing and Training Centre opened, offering a state-of-the-art 50 metre pool, with new- generation technology and a specialised aquatic recovery centre (has not been available to the public). The jury was impressed to learn that some of the elite swimmers prefer to train in the 1982 centre, rather than doing so exclusively in the new facility. On their afternoon visit to the 1982 centre, the jury saw many primary school aged prospective champion swimmers filling the 25 metre pool with activity. The main pool is a venue for school swimming carnivals - a use for which it is unrivalled.
Any changes to the building are not apparent, but the asbestos cement external sheeting has been, wisely, replaced by Alucobond. The colours of the new sheeting retained the gradation, but the effect has been lessened by the growth of a belt of shrubs along the south and west earth berms. The internal walls now have bands of grey and a deeper blue to match the colour below the water, while photo murals of swimmers enliven the open trusses across the main pool. The external relationship of the building to the earlier AIS buildings is not as apparent as before, owing to the intrusion of a new building between them and the growth of trees in the central square. The aesthetic quality of its setting to the north-east has been enhanced, thanks to Cox Humphries Moss, the architects for the 2006 centre, respecting the outstanding architectural attributes of the 1982 centre in the recessive nature of their simpler design.
The AIS Swimming Pool Centre deserves recognition for the way it continues to serve its users and society well, despite the threat of being superseded, in part, by a newer facility.
THE JURY FOR THE 2012 ACT AWARD FOR ENDURING ARCHITECTURE CONSISTED OF
David Hobbes RAIA, Philip Leeson Architects (Jury chair)
Ken Charlton AM FRAIA, Architectural Historian
Horrie Holt OAM FRAIA, Australian Institute of Architects, ACT Chapter President 1970 - 1972