North Bondi Amenities Building
Bondi Beach is Australia’s most famous stretch of sand, renowned for its surfers, lifeguards, suntans and summer antics — yet there is another, lesser-known side to this suburb.
Af Jennifer McMaster
It’s a place where a laid-back coastal spirit meets the city’s edge and, as such, is simultaneously metropolitan and informal, sophisticated and relaxed. This dual spirit is perfectly captured by the North Bondi Amenities Building, a new facility designed by Sam Crawford Architects. The building is a casual and yet finely considered piece of architecture, which reflects the two identities of this iconic beachside suburb.
The North Bondi Amenities Building sits between Bondi Beach and Campbell Parade, a promenade that thrums with pedestrians, restaurants, and traffic. The project provides beach-goers with a convenient facility equipped with toilets, changing rooms and accessible amenities.
The North Bondi Amenities Building undoubtedly celebrates the romance and rituals of beachside life. Sam Crawford Architects describe their project as quintessentially Australian, a facility ‘built for bare feet and salty skin and to withstand the sting of the coastal elements year after year.’
This idea is present across this project and is first seen in its volumes and cladding. The North Bondi Amenities Building is wrapped in a finely spaced timber screen — a screen comprising recycled Australian hardwood, which was reclaimed from a nearby warehouse slated for demolition. The battened screen adds rhythm and craft to the building envelope while drawing natural air into the interior spaces.
To add variation, the timber screen changes color and finish along its perimeter edge. A lower band of timber retains its natural appearance, while a strip above – ‘a horizon line’ – adopts a crisp white datum. An existing pump station, which sits alongside the new amenities block, is ringed by blackened timber. The contrast in materials is beautiful up close, where the different textures are celebrated alongside one another.
Towards the entry, the building curves in at its corners, drawing people inside. Here, a series of changing areas and WCs are arranged in orderly succession. Round skylights invite natural light into the interior, with the pure circular geometries offering windows to the sky. A harmonious material palette of tiles, terrazzo, and concrete is used throughout, adding tactility to the project.
The details throughout the North Bondi Amenities Building are consistently thoughtful, while still meeting the rigorous wear-and-tear requirements of a public facility. The gentle curves of the exterior are mimicked in the changing-room benches, which curl to hug the corners of the space, and are inlaid with fine timber slats.
Another delightful feature of this building is its roof, a concrete plane that is covered with native plants. These plants drip down the façade and crawl in through open skylights. The green roof also provides the building with thermal mass, which helps mediate internal temperatures.
The North Bondi Amenities Building was a close collaboration between Sam Crawford Architects and a color consultant, Sonia van de Haar of Lymesmith. As a consequence, color has been used expertly throughout the project. A “beach-y” mixture of marine colors — fading from dark blues to dusty greens — creates a joyful interior experience.
Around its edges, the project continues its refined yet friendly language. A long concrete bench faces the main street, while a robust concrete washbasin, positioned near the entrance, invites passers-by to stop and rinse off. Small circular mirrors are hung on the wall in a manner that feels intimate and domestic. These gestures are casual and beautifully composed and stitch seamlessly into the informalities of Australian beach life.
Sam Crawford Architects’ North Bondi Amenities Building is a refreshing take on the most unlikely and (usually) un-glamorous of building types. It is a crafted, sculptural and tactile building that balances the hardy with the delicate, and the playful with the serene. As such, it manages to epitomize this beachside suburb, embodying its warm and welcoming spirit.