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PROTRACK » GENERAL » New Albert Park track combines the new with the old

New Albert Park track combines the new with the old

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Albert Park's Lakeside Stadium stands as a complex amalgam of the old and new.

Splendid rebirth of stadium from mish-mash of decay

By Joe Rollo
The Age
December 9, 2011

LIKE Lazarus, the old South Melbourne football ground in Albert Park has risen from near-dereliction as the new home of track and field sports in Victoria. And a pretty splendid vision it is, too.

Olympic Park Stadium, the hub of athletics in Victoria since 1956, is no more, fallen prey to the tentacles of the Collingwood Football Club, so welcome to Lakeside Stadium. It is here, amid the pleasant green surrounds of Albert Park and its eponymous lake that fans of athletics will come at twilight tomorrow to see the 51st running of the Zatopek 10,000 Classic.

H2o Architects, the design architects for the $60 million redevelopment, were handed a mish-mash of rotting and degraded buildings and managed to transform them into a world-class track and field arena and FIFA-approved soccer field, home of South Melbourne FC soccer club.

The heritage-listed grandstand of 1927 has been preserved, a 2000-seat stand from the 1970s designed by Daryl Jackson refurbished, the soccer pitch brought up to world-class standard, a new eight-lane composite running track laid and two new structures - a 2500-seat stand and a hall for ball sports - added. Gently-raked grass terraces grace the goal ends and an electronic scoreboard and screen have been erected. In all, 8000 people can be accommodated now in pleasant and comfortable surroundings, in close proximity to the action on the running track or the soccer pitch.

In contrast to the spectacular, cloud-like forms of AAMI Park, next door to the old Olympic Park Stadium, the architecture at Lakeside Stadium is modest. But in its sum of parts - the white concrete of the new buildings, the brilliant sky-blue composite running track, the old red-brown grandstand, its setting within the park and the intimacy of its scale - watching the action on the running track or the soccer pitch, sitting in the stands or standing on the terraces on a balmy summer evening, is going to be a joy.

The new northern stand is a plain affair, remarkable only for its sequence of sculptural diamond-shaped concrete piers supporting a cantilevered roof of steel and corrugated iron, folded like the roofs of petrol service stations from the 1950s and '60s. The ball sports hall is a cube of white concrete and glass attached to one end of the old grandstand; the hexagonal pattern in its concrete panels ''fractured'' along the top and filled with glass to introduce natural light and soften its appearance.

What seems incongruous is the preservation of the heritage-listed 1927 grandstand, which now houses the Victorian Institute of Sports. The ground floor has been extended to include gymnasium and sports sciences facilities, a 50-metre indoor training track and a series of pools. The seating in the stand is gone; the original timber slats ripped out and in their place, a series of minimalist two-storey modules inserted, containing the VIS offices and administration facilities.. Sadly, the net result is that all that's left to see of the original grandstand is the overhanging red iron roof and redbrick structure.

Two rows of seats were left at the front of the stand as a gesture to its past. But these, though not for public use, are all but useless for watching track and field events. Pushing the ground floor training facilities closer to the running track and soccer pitch means an extended roof creates a vexing blind spot that obliterates all views of one corner of the running track.

It must have seemed like a good idea on paper, but it reveals how complex is the job of marrying old with new in the design of modern stadiums.

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