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Preserving Tradition, Protecting the Future: The 13th Beach Surf Life Saving Club's Sustainable Renovation

Entry in Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards 2024, Small Project Architecture Category - VIC Chapter

On the edge of picturesque Barwon Heads, nestled against the rugged coastline, lies a beacon of safety and community spirit – the 13th Beach Surf Life Saving Club. For decades, this club has stood as a guardian, watching over beachgoers and safeguarding our shores. However, as times change and the demands on our coastal infrastructure evolve, so must our approach to design and sustainability.

In 2023, the 13th Beach Surf Life Saving Club embarked on a journey towards renewal and resilience. Led by Leon Eyck's visionary design, our team at DE atelier Architects had the privilege of bringing this vision to life. Our mission was clear: to create a facility that respects the natural beauty of its surroundings and serves as a sustainable model for the next 50 years.

At the core of our design philosophy was a commitment to minimal environmental impact. The delicate coastal ecosystem demanded reverence, and we were determined to leave no footprint on the surrounding sand dunes. Working closely with Barwon Coast and DELWP, we adhered to strict guidelines that prohibited expansion beyond the existing footprint and mandated the preservation of coastal vegetation.

The result? A design that seamlessly integrates with its surroundings, lifting the building above the vegetation line to provide a visual and symbolic connection to the coast. No longer hidden to casual beach users, the Surf Club now stands as a beacon of safety and community pride, informing the public about where to enjoy the beach environment safely.

But our commitment to sustainability extended far beyond aesthetics. Every aspect of the renovation was meticulously planned to minimise waste and embodied energy. By retaining and incorporating all existing areas, we preserved the club's heritage and ensured the project could be achieved within a tight budget.

The program resolution was equally crucial, addressing the club's and its members' evolving needs. Increased patrol and rescue storage capacity, improved functionality, and enhanced social spaces were all carefully integrated into the design. A second-storey extension provided ample space for training and storage, while the ground floor was reimagined to foster greater connectivity with the external areas and beach.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and support of the 13th Beach SLSC Executive Committee and the wider community. The $1.2 million in funding from the state government underscored the importance of this project in ensuring the club's continued ability to protect beachgoers.

As the doors of the newly refurbished clubhouse swing open, we are filled with pride and optimism for the future. This project is not just about creating a building; it's about preserving a legacy and safeguarding our coastline for generations to come. With each wave crashing against the shore, the 13th Beach Surf Life Saving Club is a testament to the power of design, community, and sustainability.

We wish our colleagues all the best in their entries into the Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards 2024.

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