Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre sets pace for future community leisure hubs

January 24, 2024
Fully-electric, community-centric and with cross pollination at its core, the new Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre (NARC) unveils an aspirational new benchmark for swimming and community facilities.

The Warren and Mahoney-designed Northcote Aquatic and Recreation (NARC) facility has officially opened in time for summer, marking the next generation in community aquatic facilities.

The state-of-the-art 8,100m2 centre includes an indoor learn-to-swim pool, 25m lap pool, kids splash park, adult bathing area with sauna and steam rooms, a café, separate spaces for group exercise, and a 50m outdoor pool set amongst native plantings and a grove of long-standing gumtrees.

Responding to the City of Darebin’s declared state of climate emergency, NARC has been designed from the outset as a 6-Star Green Star facility. This has predominantly been achieved by removing the traditional reliance on gas and replacing with electrical heat pumps that harness the sun, providing renewable energy during the day. A Renewable Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) provides renewably sourced power during the evening.

Warren and Mahoney Associate Principal and Project Architect, Brett Diprose, says in addition to the centre’s exemplary leisure facilities and sustainability credentials – which include significant use of solar, electricity-only power and other initiatives – NARC is about inclusion.

“Accessibility and balance are ideas that sit at the heart of this design and have been executed brilliantly by our construction partners, KANE. The breadth of facilities, the layout – including a specific adult-only bathing area, expansive foyer café and sprawling grounds surrounding the outdoor pool – enables this centre to truly act as a community hub.

"Landscaping, delivered by Normark Landscapes and designed by Arcadia Landscape Architecture, are meticulously delivered. Internally, the selected materials offer a cool, light-colour palette to create a relaxing environment. The children's splash park features playful platypus motifs, within a stylised riparian environment to create a brightly coloured playground.

“The commitment to the ecological balance is symbolically marked with the large kingfisher on the external façade of the building. During our project consultation with Wurundjeri elders, we came to learn of how the kingfisher will select their home; they will only create a nest in a place where there is ecological balance. And that is what the design and operations of this facility aims to deliver."

A sense of community is created by the large and open café area, and suites for Allied Health professionals are also included in the design.

“The facility offers a range of spaces for gym equipment, exercise classes, spin classes, a child safe program space with a secure dedicated landscape environment and spaces for community groups to meet. There’s a much greater sense of a thriving community hub than traditional aquatic centres have provided. There’s a commitment to celebrating the joy of physical movement and of bringing people together to connect,” adds Diprose.

The facility incorporates natural products, including the use of mass timber for the structure of the main swimming hall and its striking timber ceiling. The building has the ability for carbon neutral operation.

“Everything has been considered with a forward-thinking approach – particularly when it comes down to the sustainability and community aspects. Even the 'ultrafine' water filtration system is state-of-the-art. It takes up less room and uses less power than standard sand-filter systems,” he concludes.

Mayor of Darebin, Cr Julie Williams, said the opening of Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre aligns with Council’s commitment to expand opportunities for participation and social connection through sport, physical activity, and other leisure activities.

"NARC is designed for the whole community. It's a fully accessible facility with ramps into all pools and a lift to the first floor. The facility will also include change rooms with dedicated spaces for accessibility,” Cr Williams said.

"The facility is targeting a 6 Star Green Star rating, demonstrating Council’s commitment to - and leadership in -climate action, and in delivering innovative environmentally sustainable projects.

"In addition to the state-of-the-art facility, we have a great community partnerships-focused operator in Clublinks, which will be delivering inclusive activities and programmes that will be a core component of this new facility.

"I can't wait to see the Darebin community enjoying this fantastic facility this summer and well into the future," Cr Williams said.