Almost 100 years after it first opened, Bondi Pavilion has undergone a major makeover designed to transform it from ‘white elephant’ back into the suburb’s cultural heart.
The revamped site, located between Campbell Parade and the world-famous beach, opened to visitors on Friday and designers hope the crowds will stick around longer than it takes to change out of the swimmers.
The chief architect, Peter Tonkin of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, says that the task was monumental and well translated.
Related: Art Gallery of NSW: Adrián Villar Rojas takes over the WWII bunker as Sydney Modern is unveiled
“It was really in a very tired state. There were cracks everywhere, it wasn’t fit for purpose,” he says.
Tonkin says the pavilion had become an unloved “white elephant” that people saw as a backdrop, rather than a hub of activity and a critical part of the suburb.
There are many cultural elements aimed at enticing visitors to explore, including a community theatre, music recording room, ceramics studio and new interactive Bondi Story Room where visitors can learn about the area, notable events and people.
Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos says the redesign has exceeded expectations.
“Everyone is impressed by it. The universal word is “wow,” she says. “It’s an iconic building. It is known all over the world. I wanted to make sure we respected the building, but showed how a historic building can become a 21st century building.”
Masselos hopes people will see Bondi reflected in the room.
“It’s got state-of-the-art stuff in there, but it’s not an elitist building,” she says. “You can come in from the beach with sand on your feet and get a coffee, or you can come in later for dinner and a show.”
The $48 million upgrade has seen 33,000 or so sparkling interlocking Spanish terracotta roof tiles installed – as well as more than 200 solar panels to cover about 70% of the site’s energy use.
“We recreated this beautiful, colorful, semi-reflective ceiling,” says Tonkin. “The whole building lifts up instead of being pushed down [previous] heavy gray ceiling.
“The other thing was to get a lot of natural light and natural ventilation into the building so you could leave all the doors open and people can just be invited to stroll in and stroll out.”
Among the treasures unveiled during the project are murals that have been incorporated into the new rooms, and the remains of a short-lived Turkish bathhouse that operated on the site when it first opened.
“It surprised the community because they’ve been looking at the building through a certain lens, and suddenly its 1920s history appeared on the walls,” says Tonkin.