BY GEORGIA FULLERTON
Two years after strong public backlash, Waverley Council will start work on an upgrade to Bondi Pavilion next year. The proposed development, which will cost an estimated $25 million, will be more of a “sympathetic restoration”, and will maintain the iconic building’s reputation as a cultural hub in the community. The now Labor and Greens dominated council have released concept designs, which will include new seating in the theatre and upgrades to the internal rooms.
The concept design, developed by architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, will also conserve the beach-front facade. Waverley Mayor, John Wakefield, said “For the people of Bondi and greater Sydney, this concept proposes a restoration and conservation of an already functional and beautiful building.
“It retains the Pavilion as a community and cultural centre, ensuring it is fit for the future needs of the community, and celebrates the role of the Pavilion in Australian beach and surf culture.”
The only part of the Pavilion which will be demolished is the wall at the northern courtyard. A new amenities block will be built beside the northern wall and will be accessible from both the courtyard and the promenade.
Cr Wakefield said there will be increased space for theatre, live music, festivals as well as space for residents and visitors. “The Gatehouse entrance and structure will be restored to become an inviting entry to the Pavilion, and will also serve as a stage area for concerts and performances as it now does.
More space will be provided for the art gallery and cultural activities in a highly visible and functional area.”
The Mayor promised the theatre will remain in its current location, with seating and staging revamped and improved back of stage facilities, adding “Technology for live streaming of performances and functions will be a crucial element of the success of this space”. In 2016, the then Liberal-controlled Council proposed a $38 million redevelopment. The development application, which was later scaled back, included a grand entrance and atrium.
The existing facilities would have been moved downstairs to make way for restaurants and cafes. Liberal heavyweight and then Mayor Sally Betts claimed she received death threats over her proposal to redevelop the building.
The 2016 redevelopment proposal sparked widespread community outrage and a grassroots campaign against it. Actor Michael Caton, who was a member of Save the Pavilion in 2016, says it is crucial to get everything under control, as the building has deteriorated in recent years.“This would be common play for people that want to privatise it, but what council has realised is they have to do more to get the place up to speed, which involves a bigger budget than they initially would have foreseen,” said Mr Caton. Bondi Pavilion attracts more than one million people each year to its community space, cafes and events. Mr. Caton wants more investment in celebrating the history of the Pavilion “We want a Surfing and Bondi history museum on the lower level…Bondi has a great history and this museum could inform and entertain visitors and also earn money”.
Paul Paech, who was also involved in the Save the Pavilion campaign, said this new proposal is respectful and intelligent, “This should have been progressed the first time around…the design proposals show that really good things happen when a local Council listens to the voices of its local communities. “All of the intense work by the stakeholder committee has paid off.” The Bondi Pavilion Stakeholder Committee was put in motion by Mayor Wakefield shortly after he was elected in September 2017. It was established to give community members the ability to prioritise the desired uses of the pavilion. Cr Wakefield said the previous concept designs had no conservation management plan.
Greens Councillor, Dominic Wy Kanak, said the public will approach the upgrade with caution.
“Our Community Members are generally supportive to the new Council’s carrying out of the public interest wishes for the Pavilion, but Council must still be watched by and held accountable to the people’s agenda for this ‘Common’,” he said.
Cr Wy Kanak insisted regenerating an enhanced arts and culture program should be the next step “There will be community consultation with groups like the Bondi Pavilion Stakeholders Committee, Bondi Waverley Precincts, Friends of Bondi Pavilion, national and international visitors.”
He said “I hear what people are saying about the support the commonwealth government should provide to local government in maintaining important cultural spaces like the Pavilion. “Victories like the people power that prevented the Pavilion from becoming over-commercialised means there is hope in how our community can oppose and end selfish clandestine agendas.”
The public has until October 5 to provide feedback on the concept designs.