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Harold Holt Swimming Pool

Norman Day railed in today's paper against proposed alterations to the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool by Peddle Thorpe architects, accusing it of gimmickry and arrogance."The very qualities that make the Harold Holt pool a significant building are to be subsumed into a comfortable and relaxed architecture of mediocrity." (The article is not yet online).

The Mayor of Stonnington said in July that, “the redevelopment plans take into account the historical significance of the site, the style of the existing buildings and the local area. We particularly want to retain the unique character, friendly environment and its reputation as the pool in the park."

Judge for yourself, PDFs of the proposed design can now be downloaded from the project website HERE.

The pool, in Melbourne's Glen Iris, was designed by Kevin Borland and Daryl Jackson and completed in 1968. In July this year the brutalist building created a stir in the news by being admitted onto the Victorian Heritage Register.





VIEW FROM NORTH (source: council website)

Tip: pH architects


  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    In today's Age there were two letters in response to the Norman Day article, one from a group of 27 architects (including myself), critical of the Peddle Thorp design and the process that led to it.

    Another letter was published from Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos of the City of Stonnington, defending the council's position. He says he, "expressed a desire for council to consult Daryl Jackson. However [...] seeking advice can be expensive and beyond what a budget allows."

    It would be interesting to know what the council considers a reasonable design advice fee, and what their budget was for this - $500?, $1000?, $5000? Presumably Daryl's hourly rate is a bit more than they're used to.

    THE AGE LETTERS 07.12.06 (scroll to bottom)

    I'm getting flashbacks of the proposed renovations at the NGA in Canberra, and original architects Col Madigan's use of the then new Moral Rights law to get a say in the process. A bitter saga that resulted in Tonkin Zulaikha Greer losing the job to Andrew Andersons from... Peddle Thorp!.


  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    A rally has been organised for Saturday 17th December at the pool. Corner High and Edgar Streets, Glen Iris 3146.


    The matter popped up in the Age again on the weekend, in a fairly obviously titled article - ""Architects in brutal battle over Harold Holt pool". I think they got a bit confused about who was doing what at in the NGA saga. Now even Col Madigan has swung on into the argument: ""Why didn't they get Daryl to do it? ... He wouldn't do anything to that pool that wasn't quality."

    THE AGE 09.12.06
  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    I had been hoping not to reply to myself again, but...

    Stonnington City announced last week that Daryl Jackson has been employed to "help Peddle Thorp rework its plans." Crikey.
  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    Peddle Thorp and Lovell Chen, in consultation with Daryl Jackson, have released the revised plans for the pool redevelopment. The plans are rough, and sparse on information - no sketches this time around, or elevations. The area of the extension has dropped, though the form looks similar.
    Public information sessions will be held this week.
    Council is now seeking comments from the community on the revised plans, which have been developed in response to feedback received as part of the heritage and planning process.
    “Council will be hosting information sessions at the Harold Holt Swim Centre on Wednesday, 27 June 7.30-9am and Thursday, 28 June 6.30–8pm. Residents and interested parties are invited to drop in to view the plans that will be on display and speak to staff about the proposed redevelopment.

    June 2007 Plans
  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    A group of concerned architects has reunited to oppose the Harold Holt Pool redevelopment, even after it has been back for a redesign. Here is a link to the latest plans:


    With permission I have copied this update into the forum.
    Dear friends of Harold Holt Pool,

    It is now nearly 12 months since we managed to put a stop to what can best be described as an inappropriate redevelopment of one of the most important Brutalist buildings in Victoria. It has been a long haul for those of us who have been at the forefront of the struggle to get a better resolution for this important, heritage listed building. A revised scheme is currently before Heritage Victoria. The decision to issue a permit (or otherwise) will be decided by November 30th. Any new submissions must be received by them by 4:00PM Wednesday November 21st.

    Attached is our latest, and last, submission to Heritage Victoria. While the current, modified proposal is an improvement on the original there are still major concerns with the brief, with the architectural resolution, as well as the with the handling of the landscape. [...]

    Thanks for your support,


    Peter Hogg

    pH architects
    A R C H I T E C T S and OTHERS

    Ray Tonkin
    Executive Director
    Heritage Victoria
    PO Box 500
    East Melbourne
    Victoria 3002

    November 21st 2007

    Re: Proposed Redevelopment of the Harold Holt Memorial Pool

    Dear Mr. Tonkin

    Following the interested parties meeting held at Heritage Victoria’s office on Wednesday November 13th, 2007 we are writing to you to state that our concerns and reservations at the proposed redevelopment of the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Center largely remain.

    We contend that the architectural integrity of this important building, already compromised by alterations, will be further eroded by the proposed redevelopment. While we acknowledge that the review of the design has occurred and subsequent alterations to the original proposal have been made which are an improvement on the original proposal, we believe that a number of issues of concern remain. While the new proposal has moved some way towards an acceptable outcome there is still much ground to be covered.

    As it stands we believe that the current proposal should be refused a permit to proceed from Heritage Victoria on the following grounds:

    1. It is understood that the brief for the redevelopment has not been made available for public scrutiny and appraisal. This raises questions as to how the brief was in fact developed and whose interests are best served by the proposal. Given the active opposition of numerous residents and pool users it is questionable as to whether the proposal is in the local resident’s best interests and in the interests of heritage values in Victoria. Without a brief based on sound analysis of needs, opportunities and opportunity cost the design outcome must be called into question.

    2. The economic imperatives that have driven this redevelopment proposal, and which underlie the brief, are remain open to question. The feasibility study and other documents relating to the economic viability of the proposal, obtained under the freedom of information act, makes it clear that the studies supporting the redevelopment are out of date, questionable and do not support the conclusions reached. We maintain that the economic case for the redevelopment as a necessity for the future viability of the centre has not in fact been established. A desire on the part of council for leisure water, gym and café do not constitute operational necessity. Motherhood statements by the applicant about what they would like to do with the centre are not sufficient reason to override the heritage concerns regarding the building and the site.

    3. A major component of any proposal such as this is that restoration works should be undertaken to the existing building fabric. It is not clear from the drawings submitted that this is in fact the case. Any permit issued by Heritage Victoria must be conditional on such restoration work being undertaken.

    4. The current landscape plan for this proposal addresses only part of the site. The trees, general landscaping and many external features are integral to the heritage value of the site as a whole and it is currently unclear as to whether these will be affected. Retention of the trees and care for their ongoing health in particular, should be a priority.

    5. The transparency of the existing building will be impaired by the depth of the proposed additions to the north, conflicting with much of the original design intention. Further, the circulation of the original design is to be largely lost in the new proposal. Given the critical importance of circulation in Brutalist architecture and in the Harold Holt building in particular this is to be avoided if at all possible.

    6. Councils assertion that the proposal must proceed in order to allow for installation of modern and efficient boilers, filters and the like does not stand scrutiny- these could and should be installed in any case whether the proposal proceeds or not.

    7. The air conditioning ducts installed in the 1980s alterations are typical of the brute force approach then employed in indoor climate control and ought to be removed and the air conditioning plant decommissioned. Modern ESD principals, including not just passive solar design but also thermal chimney effects, wind capture and cross ventilation techniques should allow for the maintenance of a comfortable indoor environment without energy intensive air conditioning. The current proposal goes some way to addressing this by employing sun screening to the north but it could certainly go much further.

    8. The design approach adopted for the new extension seems unrelated to the existing building despite recent revisions, however it is a marked improvement on the earlier proposal. Further design development work needs to be undertaken and submitted for approval before a final judgment about the suitability or otherwise of the proposal can be made.

    9. The diving pool, and the high diving tower, important components of the existing complex are currently derelict, something which the proposed redevelopment, despite its scale and thoroughness, does not propose to repair and re-commission. Given the dilapidation of the pool and tower one wonders if they will not need to be demolished if remedial action is not taken soon, further eroding the design intention and heritage value of the complex. The repair and restoration of the diving pool, and the high diving tower should be part of any major redevelopment proposal. Given that there is not a single fatality or serious injury recorded in the use of the tower since it was constructed it seems that concerns regarding the safety of the high dive tower, once properly restored, are misplaced.

    We submit that while the review process has resulted in an improved proposal that there are still a number of issues which have not yet been satisfactorily resolved. Until these issues are appropriately addressed we believe that permission from Heritage Victoria to proceed with the development should not be given.

    Yours sincerely,

    Peter Hogg, Architect
    Anna Ely, Architect
    Barbara Moje, Architect
    Peter Johns, Architect
  • yobitch
    edited January 1970
    A general question - does a good piece of architecture become diminished by that author's later horrific work ? Was not thinking of Borland if you know what I mean.
    What about McIntyre's work after his widely valued '50s work ? Are they diminished by his offsprings even lesser works ? Do the sins of the father return ?
  • hairdresser
    edited January 1970
    yobitch wrote:
    A general question - does a good piece of architecture become diminished by that author's later horrific work ? Was not thinking of Borland if you know what I mean.
    What about McIntyre's work after his widely valued '50s work ? Are they diminished by his offsprings even lesser works ? Do the sins of the father return ?

    it does.
    the Harold Holt Pool is proof.
    Consider the building in the 70s.
    For a brief moment in time it was magnificent - (spoken from first hand experience)
    You could see Borland's sense everywhere.
    The drafting office that participated in the original work then went on to carry out changes through the 80's which demonstrated precisely the nature of their contribution to the project originally.

    It makes any call by a segment of the profession to have that drawing office or its owner involved further an embarrassment.

    The building was all ready gone 25 years ago.
    Calls for its preservation recently have been misguided.
    What do they think they are preserving?
    Nothing less than a full restoration to its original state as completed (when Borland clearly had involvement) should be acceptable.

    Or demolish it.
  • simon seasons
    edited January 1970
    Sorry hairdresser, I disagree. If a piece of 'art' was treated in that way then no one would bother painting or carving.
    For instance Frank Loyd Wrights stuff of the late 1950's and 1960's when he was in his 90's, which is atrocious in my meagre estimation; I think It could not be sustained that that 'horrific' work would diminish any of his previous work. The only thing that diminishes his previous work was his descision to ignore his engineer when designing 'Falling Water" which now faces prohibitively expensive remedial work and makes one wonder about his other stupendous cantilever's.

    The idea that an 'author' is attached intrisically and inevitably to thier work logically suggests that all thier structures should be demolished and buried with them upon the death of the author. Both unfair and egotistical on the part of an audience that requires anyone to constantly out perform their previous attemps when they are already only as good as their last piece.

    Letting any piece of art stand alone and on it's own merits is the same as not allowing ones children to be tared with ones brush.
  • hairdresser
    edited January 1970
    You might be right in an irrelevant way.

    But my post says clearly the author did not do the changes to the work in question.
  • simon seasons
    edited January 1970
    That's my forte. Being right and irrelevant.

    I noted that Yobitch asked if an authors previous work was diminished by current horribilis and your answer was yes.
    I am sorry I didn't see that as clearly as you intended but on a second reading I can see you are quite , um...., the office who did the original work botched it the second time they had the chance to do something with it?
    Are you saying that Borlands drafting office thought they could do it better and independantly tendered for the job on Borlands credentials? Bloody cheek if that's the case and I can understand your sentiments re preservation.

    Back to irrelevancies. If a Van Gogh was overpainted by a studio assistant would that make it as valuable as it would be if the master underneath was recognised as the author even if they couldn't be seen? NO! It would be verging on fraud wouldn't it.

    I have a piece of furniture that has been restored in the 19th century rather unsympathetically, but the original carcass and joinery was made in the 1760's. It is valuable now because of it's age but it will be more valuable when it's 'make over' is removed and it's integrity restored. But restoration means adding materials that are 21st century in origin.

    It is hard to be faithful when you are not the author, but it is harder still to be unfaithful.
  • jamesturner125
    edited November -1
    I totally agree with @simon seasons..the building should not be fully restored, though if it should, only by its original materials can it be as valuable as it should be online pokie games
  • landofoz
    edited November -1
    Well, the bits that are being left that are in fact original should be restored, that is cleaned up, paint removed, wordwork renewed where required. From the High Street corner it could look much as it did when built. Latest plans from Stonn Council indicate this is the intention. The old and new additions are just unfortunate. Be nice if interior was restored where possible too, or at least sympathetic materials used, but it has been more greatly altered, and the architects have never responded positively to this suggestion.
  • landofoz
    edited November -1
    OK, its 3 years later, I havnt been to see myself, but there are some images on Pedd Thorpe's site, and it looks much like the design, but what about the details ? Has the concrete been cleaned, stripped of later paint ? Is the interior more or less brutalist than before, having already been much altered and painted ? How does the new sit with the old ? What about the dive tower ?

    And I notice that the Peddle Thorpe site has a little essay by Peter Brook about the criticism they got from late 2011. I spose thats understandable, but not sure i agree with his opinions.
  • peter_j
    edited November -1
    Yep that's a rather sour piece. Trying to work out what it means... How can it be 'superficial' for architects and critics to talk about things like the philosophy behind a building's design. What is 'deep' then?
    BTW Looks like it's by a similar hand to whoever wrote their wikipedia entry.
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