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Published October 14th 2019
Fun and Fitness at a Brisbane Architectural Treasure
Centenary Pool in Brisbane's Spring Hill is not only a place to swim and get fit but also one of the city's most recognisable architectural landmarks with so much to more than meets the eye.
With summer knocking at our door, I decided to relive my childhood memories and retrace my steps and strokes at the iconic Centenary Pool. Today, it is now known as the Centenary Aquatic Fitness Centre and Fitness Club and retains the charm of the past while also catering for the sporting and recreational needs of the present.
Built in 1959, the pool complex was designed by visionary, Melbourne born architect and Chief Architect at Brisbane City Council, James Birrell.
An analysis of the building by docomomo found that Birrell was "influenced by the sculptor Mans Arp and the Constructivist Moholy-Nagy's posthumous publication, 'Vision in Motion' (I947). He intended to generate a 'festive air' and in so doing, he echoed the work of Oscar Niemeyer; the tropical climates of Queensland and Brazil provide the perfect backdrop. "
This edgy, innovative, modernist styled complex is home to 2 swimming Pools (an 8 lane, 50 metre Olympic size lap pool and a circular children's wading pool) as well as a diving tower. It formed the first wave of post-war, modernist Queensland architecture.
2. Take a leap of faith off the Diving Tower One of the most unique and enticing features of the pool complex is the statuesque diving tower. It is also the only pool in Brisbane that has a four-level diving tower with single boards at each level and a diving pool measuring 90 ft by 60 ft.
You know you want to try it. With both springboards and platforms, the fearless and the brave can dive from bouncy 1 metre, 3 metre, springboards and then work there way up to the 5 and 10 metre heights towers. Take the winding, black staircase to the 10 metre tower, grab your breath and take in the great views of Brisbane, particularly the Royal Brisbane Hospital complex.
After all that exercise, a kiosk is located on the pool deck. Cafe tables are chairs shaded by umbrellas are available to sit outside and enjoy your snack. the huge rounded pillars are an unusual design as well.
4. Check out the Space Age structure above the pool
The most notorious feature of Centenary Pool has nothing to do with swimming or the pools. Watching over the pools is the artistic elevated structure that looks like it belongs more in Star Trek movie than a swimming complex
With its own sweeping waves and curves, the iconic artistic structure has been an Indian restaurant and is now a health and fitness centre. It's full-length glass windows give an openness and expansive view over the pools.
5. Find the pools' observation windows
Look out for a staircase (besides the diving tower) which leads below the pool deck. A small room includes an observation window to help coaches to view their pupils in action from below the surface. The window can be seen from the deep end of lane 8. Dive below the surface to take a closer look.
6. Splash in the Wading Pool for Kids
A circular wading pool is perfect for the kids and also has an overhead waterfall feature for extra fun. The Rackley team offer learn to swim, squad and club swimming options to help them develop their confidence and skill in the water.
7. Recover in the grandstand
A fully covered and tiered cement grandstand is a good spot to take a breather after your swim, grab some rays and leave your towel. It also offers a good view of the pool complex particularly from the higher levels.
8. Seek out additional Health Services
As well as the pool, the outer building houses Medical Services including an orthodontist, family counsellor and other specialties.
9. Rest on a park bench
A small grassy park and bench are located beside the entrance to the pool to plan your swim or rest for a bit.
Photo courtesy docomomo.com
10. Head to the dog park
Right behind Centenary Pool is the Victoria Park off lead dog park which is not easily seen from the street. So, something for pooch as well.
For my visit, parking was made easy with the pool having its own dedicated and free car park. Centenary Pool was added to the heritage list in 1995.
Centenary Pool is located in Gregory Terrace Spring Hill, 2 km from the CBD and is open 7 days a week. Despite its unique architectural style and many offerings, it is first and foremost a swimming pool.
So take a dive this summer and experience Centenary Pool for yourself and marvel in this architectural masterpiece at the same time.