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Harold Holt Pool is saved

Another ‘Brutalist’ building is placed on the heritage register.

The Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre in Malvern has been added to Victoria’s Heritage Register as a prime example of Brutalism. Built in 1967, the complex is described by the Heritage Council as “amongst the most notable, expressive, earliest and intact examples of the concrete Brutalist movement that emerged in Victoria in the late-1960’s”.

The Harold Holt Swim Centre on Edgar Street, Malvern.

Considerable controversy will probably surround the Heritage Council’s decision. As the name suggests, Brutalism provides an aesthetic that is difficult for most people to embrace. Dominated by blocky shapes, off-form concrete and an imposing appearance, Brutalist buildings are usually summarised in one word – ugly.

Yet for some reason, Brutalist buildings interest me. I believe they are neither ugly nor beautiful. The style represents an aesthetic and method of construction that is unlikely to re-emerge in Australia. For that reason I am pleased to see the Harold Holt Swim Centre receive legal protection.

The façade of the Harold Holt Swim Centre.

The City of Stonnington recently announced a $7 million redevelopment of the building that would see it significantly extended and altered. Construction was planned to begin in mid-2007 but this may now be delayed as heritage considerations are taken into account. The building has been altered twice since construction. In 1988, multifunction rooms, offices and a spa were added and in 1998 some external concrete walls were painted.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Harold Holt Swim Centre.
The original complex is shown at the rear (Image: City of Stonnington).

The original façade of the building was to be preserved in the plans, with the entrance and focus of the centre shifting to the north. Heritage protection will not prevent redevelopment, but will ensure that the integrity of the existing building is preserved. State Government funding will also be available to provide for the restoration of altered portions of the building.

With good planning, the residents of Malvern can enjoy modern and comfortable facilities whilst the integrity and significance of Kevin Borland and Daryl Jackson’s 1967 Brutalist creation is protected.

Freegard, J. (2006) Brute force saves Harold Holt pool. Herald-Sun, 17 July
Ker, P. (2006) Heritage Listing for ‘brutal’ Holt centre. The Age, 17 July, p.6

Further Information:
Click to view internal and external images of the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre.
Click here to download the Heritage Council’s Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre heritage analysis (RTF format).



One response to “Harold Holt Pool is saved”

On 28 April 2020, David wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

The brutalist façade of this building is now a cherished piece of Malvern, and Melbourne’s history. Since this article, brutalist architecture has indeed been more thoroughly embraced for all its historical significance and its rough diamond aesthetic.

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