The walking track linking Sydney’s Bondi and Bronte beaches is iconic and is one of the area’s top attractions for tourists and locals. It wraps sandstone cliffs, meanders through public parks and has some of the city’s best views and most valuable land.
It’s also as old as it is popular, and there have been repeated efforts over the years from council to maintain and upgrade the track and its public facilities to cater for an increasing amount of annual visitors.
One of the more recent upgrades was to an ageing amenities building at Marks Park, which is about half way between Tamarama and Bondi. In charge of the renovation was Sam Crawford Architects (SCA), the team behind a number of other freshly upgraded and new amenities buildings dotted around Sydney.
While Marks Park Amenities, a south-west facing brick and concrete structure originally built in the late 1970s as a set of hockey/ soccer team change rooms and public toilets, seemed to meet every description of a “brick shithouse”, SCA Director Sam Crawford explained that the building was simply too functional to demolish. Instead, his team went about upgrading, extending and re-skinning the building to bring it up to the demands of peak crowds and up to scratch aesthetically with its immediate environment.
Before and After: the existing building was too practical to knock down so SCA upgraded its amenities, gave it a new veranda and access route, and wrapped it in a skin of hardwood battens. Top image: SCA, bottom: Brett Boardman
Functionally SCA’s brief was to double the number of male and female pans/ urinals within the shell of the existing building, improve overall amenity and give the building a new identity.
First off, the female and male amenities spaces were gutted, rationalised and re-planned to double the facility capacity. Robust materials of terrazzo and ceramic were chosen for their durability, as were the Caroma toilets and urinals and Enware tapware. SCA also made judicious cuts into the original concrete and brick skin to inundate interior spaces with natural light and air and to reduce the need for the new LED lighting.
Top: Judicious cuts were made in the original concrete and brick skin to inundate interior spaces with natural light and air. Photography by Brett Boardman
Above: The rhythm of the timber posts of the veranda frame stunning views towards Tamarama surf break and the Waverley Cemetery. Photography by Brett Boardman
A veranda was added to the south-west face of the building to provide shelter from the oppressive afternoon sun and driving southerly rains, and hosts precast concrete communal wash troughs which freed up space inside the building for the much needed additional toilets.
But the most obvious difference at Marks Park Amenities is its new timber skin of recycled Tallowwood and Blackbutt battens. The battens are vertically aligned and are either 95x95mm or 40x40mm which, according to Crawford, provides a play of textures and shadows throughout the day as the sun hits the building at different angles. Crawford also expects the skin to weather naturally under the harsh salt and sun exposure of the headland and to settle into the muted silver tones of the nearby banksia scrub and sandstone escarpment.
The battens provide a play of textures and shadows throughout the day as the sun hits the building at different angles. Photography by Brett Boardman
But while the Tallowwood and Blackbutt battens are striking in their own right, the story behind their sourcing is almost as interesting. The timber posts that now wrap the building were fortuitously discovered by SCA during a client design meeting at the now-demolished Waverley Council Works Depot at Zetland. The Depot, then-comprising a number of large warehouse buildings framed with mixed Australian hardwoods, was being demolished to make way for the Green Square Town Centre. Waverley Council had contracted a demolition company to bulldoze and remove the buildings as soon as possible but with some “cajoling” agreed to let the demolition crew set aside the timber for pick-up by a salvage company. Under the agreement the salvage company could keep timbers surplus to the project’s requirements and so long as they supplied SCA with free freshly milled recycled timbers to specification for Marks Park Amenities.
At last, SCA had their timber battens.
The grassy expanse of Marks Park provides a coastal panorama from Bondi to Maroubra Beach. It is an important and beautiful public space for locals and tourists to gather, exercise and, inevitably, use the toilet. Thanks to SCA there are now more of those on offer in a safe, clean and environmentally responsive and responsible building.
Bluescope, Colorbond Ultra Steel in colour Surfmist and Lysaght Klip-lok 406 profile
Recycled Hardwood Timber Battens 95x95mm & 40x40mm
Custom Design SCA
Fibonacci Stone, Terrazzo 400x400 in colours Storm & Nougat
Terrazzo Australian Marble, Polished whites MT26 40mm
Caroma, Urbane Wall Faced Invisi Series II
Caroma, Care LEDA 2000 Pan
Caroma, Cube 0.8 Litre Electronic Urinal Fit Out Kit
Caroma, Cube 0.8 Litre Electronic Urinalrough In Kit
Enware, TFC741510 With Extension