Yarra Pools to realise community vision for Melbourne’s river front

An inspiring new render by architects WOWOWA has brought to life a collaborative design concept for the Yarra Pool.

Incorporating a 50m lap pool, wetlands, cafe, changing facilities, community pavilions and a kayak launching spot, the design will truly transform part of the Yarra’s underutilised northern river bank. The diversity of uses and array of native vegetation seek to create a true oasis for recreation and a water focused meeting place for the community. With the city’s population growing by more than 100,000 per year the city is in desperate need of quality open space that caters for a diversity of active recreational uses.

The design was first featured in Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week 2018, and was created with the generous support of National Gallery of Victoria.

The design is the culmination of 2 years of public engagement.

Since the Yarra Pools concept was first announced in 2016, its instigators have been working hard to engage thousands of Melburnians and scores of organisations, traditional owners and government agencies to develop a collective vision for the project.

Through their User Needs Analysis, an array of core principles and objectives were developed, which culminated in the design brief taken up by WOWOWA. Some of these include: being usable all year round, having a positive environmental impact, accommodating a wide variety of uses, and celebrating the unique cultural values at the site.

The proposal is backed up by business modelling which shows there is a definite need.

Analysis delivered by EarthCheck predicts that such a facility would attract 350,000 people per year, just for swimming. This number would grow to 550,000 by 2036. The north bank location is currently underserved for affordable hospitality offerings despite the riverside location. The Yarra Pools would represent a unique recreational facility significantly broadening the city's visitation offering particularly in the areas of outdoor and active tourism. Many of the world's most liveable (and colder) cities including Helsinki, Copenhagen and Paris have embraced riverside pools. While Vienna, who recently surpassed Melbourne in the Economist’s liveability rankings has successfully promoted river swimming for years.

The overall Business Case is being delivered as a collaborative effort by EarthCheck, Arup and Yarra Pools and supported by Melbourne Water through the Yarra Strategic Plan.

Yarra Pools is looking for feedback, and support from the community and decision makers.

In order to realise the project, more funding and the backing of key decision makers is required. Every Melburnian can help, here are just a few ways to do so:

  • Share your feedback on the design proposal via the short survey at yarrapools.com
  • Donate to keep funding our work via the link on our webpage at yarrapools.com
  • Contact Lord Mayor Sally Capp and tell her you want the Yarra Pools to happen!
  • Like, follow, subscribe and share via our various channels to keep up to date @yarrapools


Michael O’Neill (Yarra Pools):

“This new design render is the culmination of two years of deep research into what Melburnians want the Yarra Pool to be. It’s based on our core design principles that were shaped by extensive community engagement, existing government strategies and regulation, and economic considerations for the City of Melbourne.”

“We now need key decision makers to get behind the project. The feasibility work is showing us that there is a definite need for a facility like this which will also tackle the well known urban design challenges around the north bank.”

“First and foremost this design concept is for the people of Melbourne, the residents of the CBD and Southbank, the city workers and people who visit the CBD regularly. We want them to be excited about the possibilities of what they see!”

Stewart Moore (EarthCheck):

“This type of activation defines and celebrates local culture and identity, inspires community and market led projects and creates compelling stories that contribute to the personality of a place. We are thrilled to be part of such a collaborative and inspiring project.”

Monique Woodward (WOWOWA):

“This site has been the heart and home for the Kulin people for 1000s of years. The design is focused on the rejuvenation of this culturally significant place into a rich natural environment.’

‘The swimming pools emerge from this newly formed landscape to create a rich tapestry of spaces for leisure, events and water activities, transforming this dense urban edge of city.’

“WOWOWA’s optimistic, playful & inclusive design celebrates a naturally occurring filtered water process, using wetland and the submerged water plants to filter and sustain clean and clear water.”

Andrew Kelly (Yarra Riverkeeper):

“If we want people to want to protect the Yarra we need people to engage with the river. What I like about this project is the wetlands, the soft connection with our waterway. We have too many walls along our river and this concept is starting to break them down, and that’s fantastic. It turns an under-loved part of the river into a magnet for people (and wildlife) and celebrates our connection with water.”