Newton Park Swimming Pool

Newton Park Swimming Pool is an Olympic swimming pool situated in Newton Park in the South African city of Port Elizabeth. The pool stands in a middle-class suburb in the western part of the city. The pool is about 4km away from the coastline.


The pool was built in the 1950’s as an open air unheated pool. The pool had a large seating stand that could seat around 1,000 people. The seating area is made of reinforced concrete.

Newton Park 04

In 2008 construction started on the renovation of the pool. The pool was to become an indoor heated pool, the first public pool of its type and size in South Africa. Construction was completed in 2010.

The renovation was primarily designed by Thembela Architects. The budget allotted to the project was modest and the architecture firm had to come up with a smart elegant design that would give the most ‘bang for your buck’. And so the existing concrete sitting stand was kept.

Newton Park 05


One of the biggest problems with creating an inside pool of this size is that the roof has to be free standing with no extra columns carrying it in the middle. This coupled with the existing structure having to be kept meant that the architects had to come up with an innovative design.


The roof is held up by large concrete columns (or fins) on either side, which become gradually wider to take on the loads. Between the roof and these columns is a steel structure that holds the roof up and allows light to come through. These steel trusses gives the roof the strength it needs to hold up its own weight.


The roof is divided into three distinct parts, these create an interesting roofscape when viewed from the inside and give a sense of articulation to the whole building. The pool gets light from three of its sides. The side where the old sitting stand lies is more closed off.




The buildings form is a striking one, with its smooth line and its experimenting with how roof and facade can be differentiated but also combined lead to a building that is interesting. The building’s masterful use of plentiful and cheap materials to create a building that does not feel as if it had such a small budget. The building is grand and gives space to the residents of Port Elizabeth to enjoy the massive pool.



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