Circles are a design feature repeated throughout the space; in the signage, the shade structure above the wading pool and around the trees near the deep end.
On Sunday when we visited, the pool was full of swimmers enjoying the 27 degree water and the free entry which lasts until November. Others congregated on the benches outside the change rooms, where the sun traps against the timber wall.
When I pushed off into lane 8, the water had a soft feel like the baby blue colour on the walls. It was not overly chlorinated and reminded me of swimming in rain water, which a man I spoke to put down to being new.
The light blue theme is continued in the sky-lit change rooms, broken up with tiles that Neeson-Murcutt chose to "gently reflect water and natural light". On a practical note I also enjoyed a lovely hot shower in a cubicle with space to keep your clothes dry and a hook for your towel.
We ended our visit with a walk around the landscaped areas around the pool where we discovered artist Sonia van de Haar's public art project called Shades of Green which features a collection of chimneys dipped in colour to blend into the sky and surrounding park. The installation is on top of the change rooms and cafe roof planted with Australian natives and meadow grasses.
Outside the pool we had a very nice coffee and cake (GF chocolate lamington for me and banana bread for Bruce) at the Meadow Cafe where pale blue rugs are provided to patrons in the colder months and the yellow and white striped cups match the colours of the pool.
At the edge of the park near Chalmers Street an interpretive sign told us the story of Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria and the namesake of the pool and park, and how he was the victim of an assassination attempt when he visited Australia in 1868. To make amends the governors of the colony named a number of places after him including Prince Alfred Park and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at nearby Camperdown.
As we walked to the car I told Bruce how I'd swum in the original circa 1958 pool a number of times but my most vivid memories were of the next-door ice skating rink where my friends and I went during the winter school holidays in the late 1970s.
|Photo from the City of Sydney website: http://history.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/waterexhibition/BathsPools/PrinceAlfredParkPool.html|
As we drove back down Cleveland Street I asked Bruce what he thought of the design of the pool. "Simple, minimalist, blending in with the landscape," he said.
At home I read that Nick Murcutt died in March 2011 of a rare cancer aged 46. At the pool opening just over a year later, with students from the new Aboriginal school Jarjum in Redfern, his wife Rachel Neeson said the sound of the water splashing was quite moving. "It is an irreconcilable disappointment that Nick never saw the project complete – although he knew exactly how it would be, how it would delight."
I will return to see the umbrellas open and in full bloom, and to find the tribute honouring the joint architect of this lovely pool.