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Set in an historic precinct, the new Aqualink, connects effortlessly with its surrounds, in no small part due to a remarkable transparency. Located just metres from the original water-hole and beautifully integrated into Surrey Park, Aqualink Box Hill thinks big, yet retains a lively human scale.

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Designed by William Ross Architects, the latest $30 million update is such a wholesale makeover that only the awkward triangular footprint of the previous complex is recognizable. Glass, water, landscape and historic counterpoint all come together in a celebration of leisure, fitness and well-being.

Gray Barton, project director of Williams Ross Architects discusses the design of a facility grounded in a long tradition of water-sport and play.

How did the history of site influence or shape your approach?

While it didn’t shape our approach in a formal sense there are important connections right across the site between the old and new. The idea of connecting with the historic diving pools and later 1930s facility, meant we leap-frogged that potted history from water holes to Edwardian pools because water has been such a crucial part of this area for so long.

What key qualities did you seek from glass?

From our very first site visit we knew we had to put forward a concept of high visibility into and throughout the building. Being able to ‘read’ the building is very important. Glazing allowed us to thread together those key spaces and importantly to create a convincing form. It also provides the void between many of the solid elements.

Materials are the vocabulary and glass definitely helps tell the story here by revealing both the structure and the internal/external environment. We paid particular attention to building orientation and placement of windows. The internal connections were also critical as are the borrowed views that lead to spaces beyond those.

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It’s an age in which you can be much more emboldened with technology. Your glazing for instance would never have worked until more recently because the technology hadn’t caught up to the ideas of architects and their clients.

That’s true. There’s certainly a diversity of products available that are liberating and, ironically, sometimes confusing. It’s really about matching the product to a need. Certainly the windows beyond the immediate pool have high performance glass.

Many of the usual concerns about solar performance and thermal separation have become far more challenging, but on this project glass selection for the aquatic areas involved a counter-intuitive approach.

You’re always trying to maintain the internal temperature at a comfortable level and that means solar heat gain is a benefit all-year-round and so we were able to seek dispensation from the normal code requirements to take a far simpler approach.

What else appealed about Viridian glass?

They provide a comprehensive range of product options. They meet our expectations with regard to material qualities. While we can’t always demand a builder use Viridian products we detail them to performance requirements that become pretty compelling.

To download the full article and interview click here.

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Photography by Peter Hyatt & Jennifer Hyatt.

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