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HomeNewsAward-winning architects to redevelop Manly Surf Life Saving Club

Award-winning architects to redevelop Manly Surf Life Saving Club

Plans are underway to redevelop Manly Surf Life Saving Club on South Steyne, with funding being sought and award-winning architects Terroir preparing new designs for consideration.

Manly Observer spoke to Victoria O’Halloran, Manly Life Saving Club President, and Professor Gerard Reinmuth, principle architect with the Terroir team, for insights into what we may expect on the seafront.

Visitors to Manly Beach observing the life-saving club at the southern end of the shore must despair at the shabby state of the old building that the surf life savers currently occupy.

The beach that launched the world’s first group of organised lifesavers in 1899 (when sea bathing in Australia developed as a popular pastime), and was among the first nine beaches internationally to host dedicated surf life-saving clubs (October 1907 – Bondi has the distinction of being the very first in February the same year) surely deserves a better centre for their maritime heroes?

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan is among many in agreement: “Manly Surf Lifesaving Club is arguably one of the best known clubs in Australia, much-loved and used by locals, club members and volunteers, and part of any visitor trip to Manly.

“However the existing building facilities are in a poor condition and would require extensive investment to get them up to standard. It doesn’t cater for the growing numbers of volunteers, nippers, surf craft and community needs required now and in the future.”

Ms O’Halloran concurred. “The current building, it’s a beautiful building, but it’s decrepit and it’s falling apart. It just doesn’t have the facilities that we need to support our own club membership. For example, we’ve got three showers and three toilets for female membership and that’s serving all of our Nippers, all of our patrolling lifesavers, and all of our other members and people from the community who use the club, so it’s really limiting.

“In addition, we don’t have disabled access and we don’t have a lift. We’ve been approached by a surf lifesaving programme called the Silver Salties – for the over 65s, promoting exercise and socialising, which we think is a fantastic initiative, but we just don’t have the facilities or the space. It’s very disappointing that we literally have to turn people away.

“We haven’t got enough room to store our life saving equipment either, and we really want a new building that will ensure we can offer community space to people who regularly rent our hall.”

Historic surf carnival at Manly Beach with spectators sat on roof of Manly SLSC (date unknown). Photo NB Council


Upstairs in the current SLSC are several interesting old relics, photos and posters on display. Are there plans to create more of a museum space for them in the new building?

“We want to try display as much memorabilia as we can,” Ms O’Halloran said. “We actually have a whole storage shed of memorabilia, it’s like a treasure trove, so we’d love to be able to display that more appropriately in the new building.

“It depends on balancing priorities. In terms of a museum and having things displayed, I think that would be wonderful. But we have limited space on the building site that we can develop.

“We may have to consider innovative ways of presenting our memorabilia, perhaps using digital technology rather than having them all physically in the new building.”

Architects chosen

Following a two-staged tender process, Northern Beaches Council announced they appointed Australian-Danish architects Terroir to develop concept plans for a new Manly Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) and public amenities back in late August.

Terroir, with offices in Copenhagen, Sydney and Hobart, are a multi-award winning international design team.

Beyond visually stimulating constructions, Terroir are renowned for implementing projects in environments that are challenging to utilise, either due to space restrictions or difficult terrain, such as densely wooded or steep escarpments.

“I looked at their website,” Ms O’Halloran said, “and I must say it’s quite extraordinary! I really was fascinated by some of the designs that they’ve achieved here in Australia and over in Europe. They really are quite spectacular, and, as you said, some of them were very challenging spaces to adapt.

“I think we’re confident they’re going to deliver something beautiful and functional for the Manly community. We just need to spend more time with them and identify what we can do with the site.”

The dynamic Manly SLSC project will be led by Terroir’s Professor Gerard Reinmuth, who, in addition to being the company’s co-founder and principle architect, is Associate Head of School and Inaugural Professor of Practice at University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) School of Architecture.

Terroir’s architectural drawing of Barangaroo Pavillion, Sydney. Image: Terroir

Terroir – a sense of place

‘Terroir’ might seem an unusual name for an architectural firm that designs and constructs eye-catching and conceptually-challenging buildings. However, for those with a smattering of high school French, or an appreciation of fine wines, terroir determines how a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain influence the outcome of a creative endeavour.

Manly Observer asked Professor Reinmuth whether Terroir won the Manly SLSC commission by submitting designs to Northern Beaches Council for consideration.

“No, the focus is on starting now on a journey,” the professor explained ruminatively. “In line with that, we were selected not for a design but on our demonstrated experience, including the delivery of projects in significant locations – including coastal places – and for our ability to work with a range of stakeholders to find the best outcome for all.

“In starting work on the project,” he continued, “we will be partnering with Council and engaging with the community over the next year, a process that will eventually arrive at some design options.”

Some of Terroir’s recent projects reveal the imaginative characteristics that continue to win them prestigious awards. These include the gravity-defying Würth building in Gaisbach, Germany; the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki; and the Puffing Billy Railway’s Lakeside Visitor Centre in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria.

Here in Sydney, distinguished premises include Castle Cove House on Neerim Rd Castle Cove; Clareville House on Pittwater; Warriewood Valley Community Centre; the façade of the Acute Services Building at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick; and Barangaroo Pavilion in Barangaroo.

Architect-watchers will be pleased to learn Terroir have undertaken collaborations with world-renowned Danish architect Kim Utzon, son of Jørn Utzon, most notable for designing the Sydney Opera House.

Penguin Parade Visitor Centre, Summerlands, Victoria, designed by Terroir. Photo: Peter Bennetts/Wikimedia

From concept to construction

On researching Terroir’s design projects, this reporter was impressed by their marvellous ability to implement them in environments that are problematic to access and adapt. Will construction on the South Steyne site necessitate utilising the cliff face behind or modifying the terrain – such as constructing a new boardwalk?

“Any design opportunities will be worked through with the community and relevant stakeholders as the project progresses,” the professor said.

“The footprint is pretty confined and the rebuild will be confined by the existing footprint,” Ms O’Halloran explained. “There’s been geotechnical surveys done about whether we can go down. We’re aware that going up may pose a challenge given the long term residents in the apartments above aren’t going to want a surf club that obstructs their view! So there’s a lot of things we really have to balance around what a new surf club will look like.

“It is a really challenging site, and that’s one of the things that’s fed into the cost of build, where it is, and the nature of the site itself.

“It’s surrounded by the rock at the back and then, as you know, it’s sitting on the beach, so you’ve got sand and water, literally, as the foundation.”

Are there considerations for radical architecture for the new Manly SLSC – the sort of which has led to Terroir winning multiple design awards – or is it more likely to be a functional building?

“All our projects start in the resolution of often complex functional requirements in places of high significance,” the professor considered. “If they have an eye-catching quality, that’s an after-effect of the process, not where it starts.

“In this case, and being a surf club, we understand the building needs to address the functional needs of the club and its many activities, and hopefully we can do that in a way that also results in an inspiring building that does justice to the site and history of the Manly Life Saving Club.”

Historic photo of original Manly SLSC (date unknown), built 1911. Photo: NB Council

Estimated cost

In addition to site restrictions, Ms O’Halloran was mindful of financial limitations. “We’re conscious that the cost of building construction in the last couple of years has increased significantly. We need to engage with Terroir about what a new club could look like in the current economic environment.”

Northern Beaches Council revealed the likely expenditure of constructing new premises for the SLSC: “The full redevelopment of the Manly Surf Club is estimated to cost $15 million and to date funding of $5 million has been secured each from Council and the Federal Government. Council is continuing to seek additional funding sources including from the NSW Government.”

“We still need to secure funding from the NSW Government,” Ms O’Halloran confirmed. “We haven’t yet been able to get the investment that we expected. We have additional grant applications in process to try and obtain further funding, but it’s been a long and quite slow and frustrating process.

“I’ve met with Manly MP James Griffin and we talked about it, so I’m hopeful that he’ll be in a position to support us to secure additional funding from the state government.”

“I’ve met with Manly MP James Griffin and we talked about it, so I’m hopeful that he’ll be in a position to support us to secure additional funding from the state government.”

Is there a chance that Manly SLSC could expand to a second site somewhere along the seafront or are there heritage and environmental concerns that would prevent that?

“The club doesn’t have any intention of doing that,” Ms O’Halloran said. “I think the Council has given some consideration to whether there could be additional facilities along the beach, but that’s not something that we are directly involved in. So in terms of the club, we will stay where we are, as that’s our home. We’re not really looking at expanding any further, put it that way.”

With all that in mind, is there a working timeline for when the design(s) will be submitted for approval and when the actual construction work might begin?

“It is anticipated to take 18 months to reach an agreeable concept design,” the professor revealed. “Our engagement is to work with Council on a journey to investigate whether a significant renovation or full rebuild is the best option.”

“It’s exciting to move to this next stage and the development of concept designs for a new club more fit for purpose and reflective of its iconic location,” Mayor Regan added.

Manly Life Saving Club


Terroir architects


Manly Surf Life Saving Club, South Steyne: to be redeveloped. Photo: Alec Smart

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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