Australia’s Ocean Baths: Stories of Design, Aesthetics and Swimming

  • Susan CarsonEmail author


Social media sites as well as recent scholarly papers attest to the growth of interest in Australia’s ocean baths. Swimmers, artists, writers and historians, among others, argue that there is no equivalent aquatic experience overseas. This chapter investigates the aesthetic qualities of major ocean baths in Australia and the way in which these attributes are circulated in contemporary media. An argument is made for a consideration of the baths as public art with reference to the aesthetics of sculptural form. Together, form and function provide a transformative space for swimmers and creative networks.


  1. ABC News. 2018. Why Sydney’s unique ocean pools are the envy of other Australian cities. ABC News, 6 June. Accessed 7 June 2018.
  2. All into Ocean Pools Inc. 2018. Accessed 10 December 2018.
  3. Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. 2010. Public art and landscape national policy statement November 2010. Accessed 10 June 2018.
  4. Carson, S., and M. Pennings (eds.). 2017. Performing cultural tourism: Communities, tourists and creative practices. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Crowther, P. 2007. Space, place, and sculpture: Working with Heidegger. Continental Philosophy Review 40 (2): 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dimmock, K., and B. Weiler. 2017. Community and business impacts of the proposed Ballina Ocean Pool. Report submitted to Ballina Ocean Pool Committee, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  7. Eastway, P. 2014. Foreword. In Sydney rock pools photographs by Ignacio Palacios. Sydney: Ignacio Palacios Photography.Google Scholar
  8. Echo Net Daily. 2015. Plans firm for Ballina ocean pool. Accessed 12 December 2018.
  9. Finsterwalder, R. 2011. Form follows nature? In Form follows nature: A history of nature as model for design in engineering, architecture and art, ed. J. Kepler, C. Nicolai, F. Otto, and D. Thompson, 131–150. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fletcher, D. 2016. Waves and water: Australian beach photographs travel to Queensland. Signals 114: 38–43.Google Scholar
  11. Ford, C. 2009. A summer fling: The rise and fall of aquariums and fun parks on Sydney’s ocean coast 1885–1920. Journal of Tourism History 1 (2): 95–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Franklin, A. 2014. On why we dig the beach: Tracing the subjects and objects of the bucket and spade for a relational materialist theory of the beach. Tourist Studies 14 (3): 261–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenberg, C. 1973. The new sculpture. Art and culture: Critical essays, 139–145. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  14. Gretzel, U. 2017. #travelselfie: A netographic study of travel identity. In Performing cultural tourism, ed. S. Carson and M. Pennings, 115–127. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hartley, J., and J. Green. 2006. The public sphere on the beach. European Journal of Cultural Studies 9 (3): 341–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heidegger, M. 1973. Art and space. Man and World 6 (1): 3–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hess, R., and C. Parker. 2009. Against the tide: New work on Australasian aquatic cultures. The International Journal of the History of Sport 24 (14): 2060–2068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hu, N., P. Feng, and G.-L. Dai. 2014. Structural art: Past, present and future. Engineering Structures 79: 407–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Illas, E. 2014. Urban tellurics in Barcelona: Between a Heideggerian rock and a postmodern swimming pool. Journal of Urban Cultural Studies 1 (3): 443–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jayewardene, I.F.W., R. Jacobs, D.W. Cameron, and L. Skountzos. 2011. Case studies in improving design criteria for ocean swimming pools utilising physical modelling and other investigative techniques. In Coasts and ports 2011: Diverse and developing: Proceedings of the 20th Australasian Coastal and Ocean Engineering Conference and the 13th Australasian Port and Harbour Conference, 340–345. Barton, ACT, Australia: Engineers Australia.Google Scholar
  21. Knight, C.K. 2008. Public art: Theory, practice and populism. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Lewi, H., and C. Phillips. 2013. Immersed at the water’s edge: Modern British and Australian seaside pools as sites of ‘good living’. Architectural Research Quarterly 17 (3–4): 281–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McDermott, M.-L. 2012. Wet, wild and convivial: Past, present and future contributions of Australia’s ocean pools to surf, beach, pool and body cultures and recreational coasts. Doctoral thesis, Edith Cowan University.Google Scholar
  24. Metusela, C., and G. Waitt. 2012. Tourism and Australian beach cultures: Revealing bodies. Bristol: Channel View Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Murray, L. 1991. The Ocean Baths. Collected Poems. Accessed 10 January 2019.
  26. O’Connell, M. 2016. History of the ocean pool. Accessed 13 August 2017.
  27. Rowe, D. 2015. Eastern beach, Geelong’s aquatic playground: Its physical history, context and conservation. Historic Environment 27 (3): 78–90.Google Scholar
  28. Stanley, T. (ed.). 2015. Religion after secularization in Australia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Stoffler, J. 2014. Modernism for the people: Swimming pool landscapes in Switzerland. In Modernism and landscape architecture, 1890–1940, ed. T. O’Malley and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn, 51–70. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations