Is there any piece of civic architecture more evocative of Summer in Australia than the municipal pool?
From the infinitely Instagrammable North Sydney Olympic Pool, to the funky modernism of Brisbane’s Centenary Pool, to the multitude of modest azure blue rectangles surrounded by scorching concrete scattered across the country; the public pool is a touchstone of what it is to be Australian.
Where else in the world is sufficiently self-deprecating to name an aquatic centre after a former Prime Minister who famously drowned?
Since 1923, Bundaberg has enjoyed a public pool on the banks of the Burnett River on Quay Street. Originally established by the RSL as the Memorial Baths, the current facility opened in 1956 as the ANZAC Pool. A staple of Bundaberg Summers for generations of families, it is an oasis in the heart of the city.
While aging, the complex evokes an earlier time with the spartan concrete pools fringed with extensive lawns and palm trees. The two-story administration building and manager’s residence features many 1950s architectural motifs including breeze blocks, angled balcony balustrades and cream brick with teal trims. The change rooms, open to the sky (great on a warm sunny day, not so on a drizzly September afternoon), make up for their lack of creature comforts with an honest simplicity of design and construction that fits the egalitarian nature of the public pool.
The way we use public space has changed over the years, particularly facilities like municipal pools. An increase in private pools for recreation means that public pools are often largely the domain of lap swimmers, or transition to quasi water parks. ANZAC Pool has changed over time too. The diving boards have been removed and so has the lungfish that resided in a tank at the entry.
Recent announcements for redevelopment of the site signal the end of the line—or the lane rope—for ANZAC Pool. A new, modern aquatic centre will be built elsewhere to replace it, and ANZAC Park will be expanded and revitalised to provide a vibrant public space connecting the business district to the river. This may be the last Summer for a place that holds memories for many locals and visitors, so why not jump in to swim a few laps, soak in the history and character (as well as the chlorine), and grab some red frogs or a packet of Burger Rings on the way out.
Architect Tomas O’Malley designs buildings that reflect Central Queensland’s climate and lifestyle.