$48m makeover: Bondi Pavilion reopens with previously hidden 1920s murals on show | Bondi beach
Almost 100 years after it first opened, Bondi Pavilion has been given a major makeover designed to transform it from “white elephant” back into the suburb’s cultural heart.
The revamped site, that sits between Campbell Parade and the world-famous beach, opened to visitors on Friday, and designers are hoping the crowds will stick around for longer than it takes to change out of their swimmers.
The chief architect, Peter Tonkin of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, says the task was monumental and well overdue.
“It really was in a very tired state. There were cracks everywhere, it was not fit for purpose,” he says.
Tonkin says the pavilion had become an unloved “white elephant” that people viewed as a backdrop, rather than a hub of activity and critical part of the suburb.
There are numerous cultural elements aimed at enticing visitors to explore, including a community theatre, music recording spaces, pottery studio and new interactive Bondi Story Room where visitors can learn about the area, notable events and people.
The Waverley mayor, Paula Masselos, says the redesign has surpassed expectations.
“Everyone is blown away by it. The universal word is ‘wow’,” she says. “It is an iconic building. It is known all around the world. I wanted to make sure we paid respect to the building, but showed how a heritage building can become a building of the 21st century.”
Masselos hopes people will see Bondi reflected in the space.
“It has got state-of-the-art stuff in there, but it is not an elitist building,” she says. “You can come in off the beach with sand on your feet and get a coffee, or you can come in later for dinner and a show.”
The $48m upgrade has seen 33,000 or so sparkly interlocking Spanish terracotta roof tiles installed – as well as more than 200 solar panels to cater for about 70% of the site’s energy use.
“We’ve recreated this beautiful, colourful, partly reflective roof,” Tonkin says. “The whole building lifts up instead of being pushed down by the [previous] heavy grey roof.
“The other thing was getting a lot of natural light and natural ventilation into the building so you could leave all the doors open and people can just be invited to stroll in and stroll out.”
Among the treasures unveiled during the project are murals that have been incorporated into the new spaces, and the remnants of a short-lived Turkish bathhouse that operated on the site when it first opened.
“It surprised the community because they’ve been looking at the building through a certain lens and suddenly its 1920s history appeared on the walls,” Tonkin says.