A social history of Australian swimming pools took centre stage at the recent launch of the International Architecture Exhibition the 2016 Biennial Architecttura in Venice.
A gathering of over 60 countries, the Biennale presents representatives the opportunity to showcase the latest ideas and thinking for global architecture. Australia transformed its canal-side pavilion into a public swimming pool with architects looking beyond the structure and design of Australia’s public baths, to explore their sociocultural importance.
The pavilion has been a crowd favourite at the Biennial which runs until November. The hard concrete corner of the swimming bath that juts into the center of the pavilion is an architectural reference to ocean pools on the coast of New South Wales, most of which are gouged into coastal rock and represent fantastic feats of engineering. “
Be they natural or manmade, inland or coastal, temporary or permanent, the creative directors will invite visitors to the new DCM designed pavilion to explore the pools of Australia in all their forms,” creative directors of the project said.
“From pools of necessity to the pools of excess, the pool is a key architectural device, a memory and also a setting. It has the unique ability to evoke both the sacred and the profane. “It also aptly represents a distinctively Australian democratic and social space – a great leveler of difference.”
The Pool and an accompanying book The Pool: Architecture, culture and identity in Australia, looks beyond the structure and design of Australia’s public baths to explore their social importance.
Prominent Australian figures including Hetti Perkins, Ian Thorpe, Shane Gould and Tim Flannery contributed to both the book and the pavilion by sharing their own swimming pool stories “Their narratives move from the scale of the body to the scale of the continent and together they reveal the many powers of the pool; as a means to enable survival in an unforgiving landscape, to tame our environment, to provide spaces that facilitate a direct contact with nature, to create democratic social spaces, but also spaces for healing racial and cultural division,” the creative directors said.
“All are examples of the myriad meanings and impacts of the pool on Australian society.”