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Jesse Thomas

Pool Buoys in the Pond

RMIT University Master of Architecture Graduate Project 2017

Supervisor: Michael Spooner

Dear Pool,

I still remember the first time I noticed you, coming  across the freeway you appeared as this looming  mass over the edge of the concrete barrier. Somehow managing to be both strange and familiar all at once.  If it were  not for the glimpse of the blue green  water inside  I would have  mistaken you for a car park.

My major project is an attempt to design a public pool and sporting facility in North Melbourne. The site I have chosen for the project is adjacent to the existing North Melbourne recreation reserve, linking the Arden Street Oval with the City Link freeway to the west of the site. The freeway runs above Moonee Ponds  Creek, with the infrastructural scale of the freeway towering over the neglected stream.

The creek itself has been altered drastically from its original state and at times is highly polluted, collecting all manner of detritus from the surrounds.

After extreme rainfall the entire site is subject to flooding, with the 100 year flood line extending almost back to Arden Street Oval.

My first entry point to the project was a reading of the 1968 film, The Swimmer, which follows the main character Ned through his attempt to swim across the county, from backyard pool to backyard pool. There were two key moments in the film that drove the the project thematically:

The first is when Ned must cross  a busy freeway in nothing but his bathers in order to continue his journey to the next pool. This intersection between bather and heavy infrastructure is a moment that I wanted to explore in my own project.

The second is when Ned decides to swim across the Bizwanger’s pool, holding his bathers above his head in order to keep them dry. This absurd moment conjured the image of an elevated pool over the floodplain. Just as Ned held his bathers above the pool in order to keep them dry, I wanted to design a pool elevated above a floodplain in keep it from getting wet.

In conjunction with the film I began to produce a series of magazines titled WET: The magazine of gourmet bathing after the cult 1970s magazine of the same name, but that was dedicated to alternative culture of that period. Each issue of WET documented my research and investigations around particular themes of bathing, water, wetness, and swimming.

Each issue documents my shifting focus and its various ebbs and flows over the weeks.

Along with the existing condition of the site, I also made an attempt to respond to the proposed development to the south. With the new Arden Street Metro and associated development forming one edge of my site.

The building itself gives very little away. When viewed from the future Arden Development it appears as a plateau, with a solid infill of concrete only punctured by the street passing below.

As you move closer, the building begins to slowly reveal more of itself. From the oval there is a hint of steam being released from the cavernous openings above the structure and a glinting brass  seating pavilion and bar and be seen just beyond.

Dear Pool,

I still remember visiting you last summer. The beating sun had baked the tarmac and it felt almost liquid below foot. As I turned  the corner around  Arden Street I remember darting  from one patch  of shade to the next. The small benches forming a series of ponds to swim through before finally making  it to the cool steps calling me inside.

Formally the building draws upon the industrial nature of the site, and an analysis of the existing suburban pool typologies in Melbourne. By borrowing a type of classification system for pools I chose a HyrdoMimetic Pool as a way of responding to the industrial surroundings. The key features of the HydroMimetic Pool include: the form and compositional devices that mimic the form of the surroundings.

These classifications were originally intended for suburban and natural settings, however I was interested in the results when used as a design tool in a more urban  and industrial environment.

The entry from Arden Street begins break down the looming mass  and recognisable elements begin to appear: steps, a handrail, a neon sign. The copper stained concrete at once resembles the corrugated backyard fence used to guard  a family pool and also the industrial roof of the surrounding buildings.

The roof of the project forms a strip of public recreation facilities with a mixing and layering of sports fields. The brass pavilions come into focus and house a number of amenities and seating platforms for the spectators of the games. The roof park connects the exiting oval with the freeway, and acts as a elevated park and sports fields.

From the rooftop you gain your first glimpse of the pool inside, with a public stair puncturing the pool facilities below, allowing a view of the pool scene beyond.

Within the pool the enormous scale of the freeway structure can be truly felt. The cavernous space is defined by the relentless grid of columns that support the structure above. The hazard tiled pillars making no attempt to avoid colliding with the pool below.

The water of the pool covers the majority of the floor, broken only by thin catwalks that delineate the different programs pools. The lanes of the lap pool are defined by the neon strip lighting overhead, orienting themselves to the freeway profiles.

The brass  changeroom marks the edge of the space, with a public shower located just before, as a place to rinse off before and after your swim.

The open change rooms allow water to pass freely from the shower and the gaps  in the roof above. The metal takes on the stain of the water and slowly takes up the same qualities as the pool. The runoff water in the change room and across the surface of the floor is channeled into the brass  drains that meander across the surface, before eventually returning it back into the pool. The position of the drains directly corresponds to the contour  lines of the floodplain on the ground below, making reference to the original pattern that carved the building.

Over the northern edge of the pool a number of large openings slice through the structure above, allowing light to pass  through to the pool below, and creating moments of intimacy from within the cavity. A steam room and sauna occupy  these spaces, giving a sheltered view across the pool and to North Melbourne beyond.

The project attempts to respond to the infrastructural necessity of the new development in the Arden precinct while still making reference to the industrial scale and environmental pre-conditions of the site.

Dear Pool,

I passed you just the other day, on my way  from the Metro station. I remember how large and elongated you were,  but upon reflection with the rapidly changing skyline  of the area,  you seem just about right. Which reminds me, I have  to drop by for a swim again  soon.

Yours sincerely

The Swimmer

The Swimmer (dir. Frank Perry, 1968)

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