Dawn Fraser Baths
Image: TKD Architects / Inner West Council

The architects behind an upgrade to Australia’s oldest surviving fully enclosed public tidal bath facility have taken home several awards for demonstrating sensitive climate adaptation in a conservation project. The harbourside building was lifted and strengthened in response to rising sea levels.

Located in Balmain in Sydney’s Inner West, the historic Baths have been given a makeover to keep up with the times, and claimed two National Trust (NSW) Heritage Awards and a Master Builders Association Award for Restoration. 

Constructed in 1882 and then enlarged in the early twentieth century, the Baths’ current layout was completed by 1926. 

TKD Architects were engaged by Inner West Council for repairs and upgrades as the historic building had deteriorated substantially due to tidal flooding from the Parramatta River.

In anticipation of future sea level rise, the southern pavilion was raised one metre. Lifting the structure required recording, careful dismantling and assessment of the timbers so it could be meticulously reconstructed from new and salvaged timber.

The historic building fabric was carefully reconstructed and sensitively upgraded to improve amenities for the community, including a new entrance, change rooms and lighting now improve the amenity of the pool. 

Image: TKD Architects / Inner West Council

The National Trust Heritage Awards spotlighted 16 winners across eight categories, two individual prizes, the Judges’ Choice Award and the President’s Prize. The Awards celebrate outstanding practice in the field of heritage, conservation, protection, and interpretation of Aboriginal, built, natural and cultural heritage during the past year. Co-ordinated by the National Trust and supported by the NSW Government through Heritage NSW, it is part of the Australian Heritage Festival in NSW.  

A representative of the awards judging panel said that this was the only project giving a radical environmental response. 

“Extraordinary in concept and execution. Really coming to terms with climate change and the fact that many of these sites are going to be underwater – in this instance they’ve lifted it and done a lot of strengthening work in response to rising sea levels. They’ve truly taken the bull by the horns in terms of prepping for climate change. Nice community project. Only project giving a quite radical environmental response.

“It’s a project of its time and circumstance. It demonstrates outside of the box thinking to address the question of how we keep things that we value and take them forward into the future.”

The project won several awards:

  • NSW National Trust Heritage Awards Adaptive Reuse Commendation
  • NSW National Trust Heritage Awards President’s Award
  • NSW Master Builders Association Award for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use of a Historical Building
Image: TKD Architects / Inner West Council

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