Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club : VT#2 An anecdote about a hall runner
When we were first invited by Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club to inspect the club house building we were intrigued by an oddly placed hall runner. But what could an oddly aligned hall runner tell you about a building?
Upon closer investigation a number of things became apparent.
Firstly, the hall runner (as implied by the name) was effectively a corridor that cut the existing Ceremonial Hall into two for access to the women’s change rooms.
Secondly, It became evident that the women’s change rooms had been retrofitted into a part of the building that was not part of the original surf club and accordingly did not share the same floor level as the rest of the building. A tight and contorted stair was built to gain access to it directly from the Ceremonial Hall in order to provide women with internal access, but how could access to the change rooms occur while a social gathering was in place?
If we looked further afield, we would find the men’s change room on the roof. This unusual and quite beautiful – albeit dated roof top change room, with an open centre to the sky was the only change room in the original 1940s surf club when the club was a ‘men only’ institution.
To further the indignity of the inequality between men’s and women’s change rooms, the men’s roof top change rooms were now on public display from a recent addition to the adjoining RSL Club. The men and their ‘tackle’ were now on full display from an elevated position, notably from the dining areas and beer garden of the RSL.
These idiosyncrasies highlight that the building had a history, and that some aspects of that history were no longer suited to the Club’s current physical or social context.
On the flip side, however, there was a rich history to the Ceremonial Hall as the cornerstone of the Club’s social gatherings for its members, which had since faded due to its poor utility and amenity, but deserved reinstatement as the Club’s premier gathering space.
These idiosyncrasies and contrasts posed some pertinent questions:
• Could the rich history of the Ceremonial Hall be reinstated in the same location within the context of solutions to resolving many of the building’s problems and other contemporary considerations?
• Could equality between men and women in the current club be physically and socially achieved?
• Could the historic roof top change rooms be retained within the refurbishment of the club house?
This led us to further questions and corresponding solutions; “What if(s)?”
‘What if’ the Ceremonial Hall moved up one level up in the building?
• This would allow the Ceremonial Hall to be reinstated to its same dimensions within a structural ‘shaft’ of the building that was shared by the Hall and the men’s change rooms. It would serve as a reinterpretation of the original Ceremonial Hall, reinstating light and view to it which it had since lost through cumulative additions. It would also provide it with access to existing external terraces.
• This ‘move’ would liberate valuable space on the ground floor change rooms where they could most conveniently and equitably serve the club’s male and female members directly from the beach.
• The arrangement of the original men’s change rooms would be evident in the layout of a mezzanine that would provide an open centre to the Ceremonial Hall, resembling the historic open-centred roof-top change room arrangement. Retention of an articulated row of existing glass blocks would mark the location of where the stalls had once stood allowing their ‘memory’ to be preserved.
Such questions and proposals were discussed with the Club, often arising from idiosyncrasies within the original building and often prompting novel proposals.
As Architects we become attuned to looking for idiosyncrasies, like oddly placed hall runners. You never know what you might discover or invent from them. They are the seeds of further interrogation that lead you to speculate ‘What if ?”.