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Of Its Place and For Its People: The New Stromlo Leisure Centre Opens

Nestled below the Mt Stromlo Observatory on an important landmark site within Stromlo Forest Park, the Stromlo Leisure Centre (SLC) has been commissioned by ACT Government to serve the rapidly growing community of Molonglo.

The SLC expands, compliments and diversifies the existing offerings of the Park. The new facilities include an eight lane 50-metre lap and competition pool, 20m learn to swim pool, slides, a toddler’s pool and splash park, gym and fitness studio, a café, creche and swim store.

Key to design was the centre’s connection to its local environment. This is both through physically grounding the project in the foothills of Mt Stromlo, and through selecting materials that relate to the surrounding bushland.

”We took a risk in the design and construct comp by challenging the briefed siting for the facility. We proposed to move the building up the hill and invert the planning and thankfully this was accepted, and the benefits have been significant. This allowed us to embed the tiered seating and back of house services into the hill on the west and maximise access to light and the wonderful views to the north and east for the benefit of the public spaces, and ideally orient the café northeast. The openness and transparency sets a new standard for these kinds of public recreation facilities – it’s a great outcome for the community.” COX Director, Ian Smith.

A distinctive material choice was the use of structural glulam timber beams, struts and purlins for the main roof over pool concourse. Selected for its natural feel, glulam timber relates to the building’s context, with its warm earthy glow softening and complimenting the interior materials palette and making the space more human and welcoming.

The glulam struts are clustered, reaching up in intervals around the perimeter of the main concourse like tree branches, supporting the beams as they span across the volume. Both the beams and struts taper, allowing the structure to read more finely, and the space to read more fluid and open.

Not only beautiful, glulam is durable and easily maintained, making it the perfect material choice for this corrosive environment. The use of this product was both an innovative and sustainable design choice. Due to the scale of our manufacturers facility (Rubners), the 250 cubic metres of timber used at SLC took only 10 minutes to grow.

Visiting the site ahead of its opening, Sports Minister Yvette Berry said it was the exposed timber beams that stole the show, “I haven’t been able to stop looking at them.”

COX Director, Ian Smith

The building has a strong architectural expression and presence while still sitting comfortably in its bush setting. Respecting the landscape was a key design driver and we’ve done this not only by sensitively grounding the building into the hill but also through very careful use of a subdued natural colour palette inside and out, even in the pool tiling and play equipment.

The locally inspired material palette also transitions indoors, fostering a strong connection between internal and external spaces. The pool concourse finishes are robust, functional and raw, emulating classic Aussie colourways with patterned pool tiling in warm oranges, yellows and blues.

The carefully considered, rational strategies of the new SLC are balanced with playful aesthetics. The final building puts its setting and community top of mind – creating a building that is truly of its place and for its people.

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