Beaurepaire Pool and Gymnasium
Eggleston MacDonald & Secomb
Leonard French (artist)
date of commission:
date of completion:
University of Melbourne, Parkville campus, Melbourne
- Victorian Heritage Register (H1045)
- National Trust of Australia Heritage Register Victoria (B6318)
Leading up to the hosting of the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, Melbourne’s need to modernise its sporting and swimming venues became pressing, and so a new fully enclosed pool and gymnasium was planned for the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus. It was funded through a major bequest donated by the highly successful businessman, politician and Olympic swimmer Sir Frank Beaurepaire.
The practice of Eggleston, Macdonald & Secomb were early champions of modernism in Melbourne, with strong connections to the influential practice of Wells Coates in England and Best Overend in Melbourne. In preparing their scheme, the architects examined the latest overseas pool facilities and collaborated with the engineer Bill Irwin (who also worked on the Melbourne Olympic Swimming Pool stadium and the Myer Music Bowl).
The resulting design enclosed the pool area with a bold but simply expressed portal frame structure forming a series of free-span bays over the 25-metre pool and amenities. Full-height glazed walls to the north and south, which originally included sliding doors, created visual connection between inside the pool and outside to the northern end of the campus, and a feeling of transparency to the whole complex. A Leonard French mural in the upper gymnasium space and a striking abstract tiled frieze on the exterior of the facade complete the scheme. The Beaurepaire Centre has been significantly conserved in the 2000s and is recognised on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Text adapted from an entry by Hannah Lewi in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).
Statement of Significance
Beaurepaire Recreation Centre
Statement of Significance: Designed in 1955 as the first major work by architects Egglestone McDonald and Secomb (Roderick McDonald partner in charge), the Beaurepaire Centre at the University of Melbourne is of state architectural and historic significance as being a period examplar of the meeting of philanthropy, fine art, clearly articulated structure and functional rationalism in mid-1950s architectural design. The complex which comprised an indoor swimming pool, sports centre, gymnasium and Department of Physical Education was the gift of Sir Frank Beaurepaire, Olympic swimmer, businessman and civic leader. Three rectangular sheds joined but staggered in form, each of glass are adorned externally with a bank of Italian glass mosaic tiles designed by Leonard French and service pods on the north side of the building which are faced with river pebbles. Internally the first floor trophy hall is graced by a huge Leonard French mural entitled “Symmetry of Sport” which has been painted onto a surviving sculptural form concealing a kitchen and storeroom within. In 1958, the Greek Orthodox community of Melbourne donated a copy of a bronzed Zeus form Artemission which was originally located at the southern entrance to the complex. This impressive classical statue is now located at the top of the stair to the trophy hall.
In terms of the development of the University of Melbourne, the Beaurepaire Centre is significant as being part of a series of demonstrably progressive architectural designs that transformed the Library, and the Russell Grimwade School of Biochemestry. The Beaurepaire Centre forms part of a significant post-war group of campus buildings.
The Beaurepaire Centre was opened in late 1956 just months after its patron’s death, for use as a training site during the Melbourne Olympics. The complex is a fitting memorial to Sir Frank Beaurepaire’s rare combination of sporting and business ability.
The building is remarkably intact and still in active use.
Leonard French Murals
Statement of Significance: These works are worthy of classification at State level. “Symmetry of Sport” is semi-abstract in style, in enamel paint on cement, in the recreation (or trophy) hall of the Beaurepaire Centre, Melbourne University. It is approximately 80 feet in circumference and reaches from the floor to the ceiling of the hall. Much of it is visible from the exterior of the building and a part of it from the swimming pool. The two friezes are in a geometric abstract style, in small glass mosaic along the northern and southern sides of the building. (French also designed an abstract mosaic mural which originally surrounded the base of the enquiry desk at the entrance to the hall. It has since disappeared).
Leonard French is one of Australia’s most distinguished artists of recent years. His public commissions in stained glass, mosaic, tapestry, and in painted mural are held in high regard, as are his paintings. The Beaurepaire murals are significant examples of his earlier manner, the interior mural being a particularly admirable work.
The works were commissioned in May 1956, the consulting architect being A S Eggelston (later Eggelston, MacDonald and Secomb). The advisory panel of experts commissioning the works consisted of Professor Joseph Burke, Mr Daryl Lindsay, and Mr Victor Greenhalgh.
(source National Trust Database)