Bondi Pavilion’s $48 Million Makeover

Before choosing 33,000 multicolored new tiles to replace the original Spanish-style roof tiles, Tonkin delved into old black-and-white photographs. When he visited the pavilion this week, he said he was “very, very happy” with the result. “It is the most beautiful classical Italian pavilion.”

From the start, he had wanted to remove “the awful yellow plastic dome” over the interior.

The Bondi Pavilion will reopen to the public Wednesday night after a $48 million restoration.

The Bondi Pavilion will reopen to the public Wednesday night after a $48 million restoration.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Precast columns, which look and feel like solid pieces of seasoned driftwood, carry a new glass atrium. Large wooden beams filter the northern lights, provide shade and air and keep the rain out.

“It is open to naturally ventilate the entire building and achieve our five-star green rating,” he said.

On the roof, 217 solar panels provide 71 percent of the building’s energy needs.

Tonkin won this year’s best architecture and heritage awards in NSW for the adaptive reuse of Pier 2/3 at an arts center in Walsh Bay. When asked if Bondi Pavilion was another example, he protested. “This is not adaptive reuse. It just continues with its original use.”

Precast columns, which look and feel like solid pieces of seasoned driftwood, carry a new glass atrium in the renovated pavilion.

Precast columns, which look and feel like solid pieces of seasoned driftwood, carry a new glass atrium in the renovated pavilion.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The construction revealed many signs of the past from those promoting the short-lived Turkish sea baths, frescoes in the ballroom (now a theater), and a safe that no one can open or crack. Other important historical features were protected, such as an Aboriginal floor mosaic that was a gift from the inhabitants of Arnhem Land.

The upgraded pavilion kept its Bondi vibe, Masselos said. It would welcome children coming to ballet classes on the newly sprung floor, community group gatherings, the local radio station, and tourists and residents dragging sand from the beach.

It includes a welcome center with concierge-style tourist advice and municipal services, and a ticket office.

A new “Bondi Story Room” features a wall-sized touchscreen map of Bondi. Included in the 300 stories to date is the story of chemist Max Steele. When Steele was attacked by a “15-foot monster shark,” Steele is said to have “swim playfully to shore,” where he instructed bystanders on how to use a ligature and administer first aid.

It also profiles more famous visitors, including the late Queen, and Margaret Dovey, a young swimming champion who grew up locally and became Margaret Whitlam, wife of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

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The “Bondi Story Room” in the newly renovated pavilion.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The story room also details the area’s native settlement and Bondi’s naming. It means “pop”, the sound of waves breaking on rocks.

These stories also detail the campaigns in 1987 and 2017 to prevent the privatization of the pavilion under the heading “Not a makeover, but a takeover”.

Masselos said it went way beyond a makeover. “It’s an example of best practice of how you can take an old heritage building and completely repurpose it for the 21st century, make it buzz with technology…Yet it still retains its absolute essence as a heritage building.”

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The renovation has also restored landmark views – running north-south and east-west – throughout the building.

Removing the old amphitheater from the courtyard, which housed the changing rooms for decades, has created a 2,667-square-meter courtyard large enough to accommodate 2,000 people. It is now called Garu Courtyard and uses the local name Dharawal for north.

Masselos said visitors to the building, including NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, were shocked to realize how large the building was – nearly 8,000 square feet inside and out – after the restoration.

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