Meet the 2023 Heritage Awards Judge’s Choice winner: Bondi Pavilion

The best of heritage was celebrated on 12 May at the 2023 National Trust Heritage Awards. Of the many deserving winners, it was a stunning project that breathed new life into the Bondi Pavilion that took out the coveted Judge's Choice Award.

The National Trust Heritage Awards is an annual celebration of outstanding practice in the field of heritage over the past year.

Many exciting projects scooped up this year’s awards, from a historic Greek café to a restored 18th century gown, however it was the spectacular Bondi Pavilion restoration by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects (TZG) that caught the eyes of the judges and took out the prestigious Judge’s Choice Award.

Bondi Pavilion
The recently restored Bondi Pavilion.

Heritage by the sea

The Bondi Pavilion underwent a major makeover and reopened to the public in 2022, transforming the rundown heritage landmark back into Bondi’s cultural heart.

The Pavilion is situated on famous Bondi Beach and has a colourful history dating back to 1928 when it was known as the “Playground of the Pacific”. It once held Turkish baths, a ballroom, and during World War II the top floor even served as an officer’s club for the American Red Cross.

Decades of marine winds and changing community needs meant the building was well overdue for a revamp, however years of protests saw successive plans scrapped and revised.

TZG aimed to protect and celebrate the heritage landmark while also giving locals and visitors a contemporary space that served as an ‘unofficial town hall.’

Reconstructing an icon

Wolfgang Ripberger, Director of Projects at TZG, says it was a challenging project that took over seven years to complete.

“The biggest challenge when we started was to come up with an approach that would make the courtyard public rather than an enclosed space,” he says.

“The original courtyard had over 1,000 changing sheds inside, so it was a private space with no connection to the park. The tricky bit was how much intervention we would need to do to the heritage building to allow for that new transformation and open it up to the park.”

As part of the makeover, more than 30,000 Spanish terracotta tiles were installed on the roof, along with 200 solar panels. The restoration also revealed old treasures, including original 1930s murals that have been restored and incorporated into the new space.

“We knew about one mural in the existing theatre, but you couldn’t see how much of it was left,” says Ripberger. “Once we started working on it and got specialists in, we found two images we had no idea still existed underneath. That was very exciting. They’re 1930s drawings, but they couldn’t be more Bondi.”

The restored Bondi Pavilion, known to locals as ‘The Pav’, now offers numerous public facilities including change rooms and toilets, a pottery studio, community theatre, music recording spaces, and a Bondi Story Room that shares stories about the building and local history.

It’s a thriving place in the heart of Bondi that is now enjoyed by locals and visitors.  “This is an absolutely brilliant project for an Australian heritage landmark,” said the Heritage Award judges during the judging process. “It will now continue to serve local residents and visitors in a sustained and multi-purposeful way.”

Read the full list of 2023 Heritage Award winners.

The National Trust Heritage Awards are the signature event of the Australian Heritage Festival in New South Wales, co-ordinated by the National Trust and proudly supported by the NSW Government through Heritage NSW.