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Architect behind renowned beachside toilet lifts the lid on its past and possible future 

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The award-winning architect behind Mooloolaba’s iconic toilet block has given his view on the future of the 25-year-old weathered structure.

Acclaimed Lindsay Clare designed the beachfront amenities block, built in 1997, which was controversial even then.

Mr Clare, who also designed Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) among other prestigious buildings, told Sunshine Coast News the people should decide what to do with the Loo.

The 70-year-old said he would be satisfied if locals simply got what they wanted.

“If the community felt it should go and that it needed to be pulled down or that it needed to be refreshed or replaced then I would accept that,” he said.

“But if the community felt that it had cultural value and it was emblematic of the Mooloolaba foreshore and beach, as part of its history, and it needed some sort of upgrade or addition, then I would welcome that.”

Locals and tourists congregate on the deck at the Loo. Picture: Patrick Woods.

However, Mr Clare said he was unaware that Sunshine Coast Council had undertaken a community survey to determine the way forward for the building as part of the foreshore revamp.

Mr Clare said he would like to be consulted and given the chance to work on the Loo with a View, if the community decided it should be refreshed or upgraded.

“We’re not chasing work but any projects that we’ve designed we should be consulted on and should be given the opportunity (to work on it),” he said.

“It’s our design, our concept, and we’d be the appropriate people to continue to develop it.

“It wouldn’t be a problem for us.”

The Loo with a View at Mooloolaba. Picture: Patrick Woods.

Mr Clare said it would be interesting to see what the community thought. The council is yet to release the results of the survey.

“They (council) can knock it all over and do something totally different or they can keep it and rectify and improve it,” he said.

“It’s like any place, there’s always the memory of things that have been there for a while and sometimes those things are important to keep.”

The council recently conducted a survey asking the community what to do with the Loo as part of the ongoing Mooloolaba Foreshore Revitalisation Project, which will include a Central Meeting Place.

The Loo with a View has long been considered the area’s meeting place, with toilets and showers, public seating, viewing and event decks and local artwork.

But council said the building was suffering from the effects of age and environmental impacts and it did not meet the requirements for people with disabilities, mobility devices and prams.

Feedback from the survey, held from March to May, was expected to help council develop informed options for the new Central Meeting Place, to present back to residents later this year, for the next phase of community engagement.

Council said a decision has not been made on whether the facilities will be rebuilt from scratch or upgraded, and council has not decided on the location of public amenities within the Central Meeting Place.

Enjoying the sights from the top deck at the Loo. Picture: Patrick Woods.

Mr Clare said the toilet block was originally designed to fit in with the local area.

“The one that used to be there (pre-1997) was old, dark, mouldy and smelly,” he said. “You would think twice about entering it.”

“So, council approached us to do a new one (Mooloolaba Amenities Pavilion) and we wanted to get good air movement through it, so we used concrete blocks, with an angle in them at the base, so air could get in and we put big round pipes over the toilets so they could ventilate. We also used openings to have lots of natural light.

“We decided that instead of having a concrete or metal roof we could put a deck on top with a roof over it and people could meet there and have a spot to sit and look out, separate from the toilet below.”

The design and construction initially received mixed reviews.

“We copped a huge amount of criticism,” Mr Clare said.

“There were newspaper articles and vehement letters, which called it futile and a waste of money.

“I’ve got them all in a box.

“But it got built and it seemed to be all okay.”

The structure won a Commendation Civic Design Award.

“It had a coastal feel to it – fresh and open and light – which is what it’s like on Sunshine Coast and on the beach,” Mr Clare said.

Architects Lindsay and Kerry Clare have forged a successful career, creating some of Australia’s best known venues.

Lindsay and his wife Kerry are renowned architects and owners and operators of Clare Design.

They claimed the coveted Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2010, for their “enormous contribution to the advancement of architecture and particularly sustainable architecture”.

They lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast from 1972 to 2000 and opened a practice with a team of up to 10 at Mooloolaba in 1979.

Their business blossomed in a big way, and they relocated to prominent George Street in Sydney, where their team expanded to up to 100 and they worked on some of the biggest projects in the country.

They’re now based on the Gold Coast, as a two-person team.

“We decided we didn’t want to do that (big business) anymore because there was so much time administering and looking after issues,” Mr Clare said.

“So, we decided to go back to work as the two of us, hand drawing everything.”

They design projects with the technical assistance of colleagues and friends.

“We can do a lot of work, but we don’t have to worry about running an office or getting new programs and software, so we’re running efficiently and can give clients good service.

At a national level, Clare Design designed the library at Docklands Library in Melbourne, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane and the Rockhampton Museum of Art, among many others. They’re now designing the State Square Art Gallery in Darwin, Newcastle Art Gallery re-development and Bendigo Art Gallery re-development.

The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art at South Bank in Brisbane. Picture: Shutterstock.

At a local level, they designed the old Maroochy South Post Office, Buderim War Memorial Hall, University of the Sunshine Coast Chancellory building, USC Recreation building, ex-Evans Harch headquarters at Kunda Park, award-winning social housing at Cotton Tree and several other residential, private and public building projects, including their award-winning former residence on the side of Buderim Mountain.

They’re currently working on projects at Peregian Beach and Sunshine Beach, they own land in the hinterland and have relatives in the area.

Mr Clare said it was hard to compare the Loo with a View with other projects.

“I don’t have a favourite,” he said

“It’s like having a good meal in front of you. They’re all part of a palette of projects.”

The Loo with a View has direct access to famous Mooloolaba Beach. Picture: Patrick Woods.

One of the first female architects on the Sunshine Coast, Liza Neil, also weighed in on the future of the building.

The director of Caloundra-based Gomango Architects, who established a practice in 1993, said the community would know best.

“Architecture for the community should be based on community decisions,” she said.

Ms Neil said there was considerable drive to keep the old building.

“It’s really interesting and a piece of award-winning architecture by architects who have won the Gold Medal, which is the pinnacle of architecture in Australia.

“We have a piece of their design sitting in a toilet block and it’s culturally significant because generations of people have met there.

“It’s an iconic place to meet, to start your journey to the beach.

“It’s embedded in the story of Mooloolaba and although that story needs to evolve, I would love to see the original architects asked back to fix the building and take on the community’s wishes to upgrade it.”

The Loo with a View and its surrounds underwent refurbishment near the turn of the century, largely via landscape architect John Mongard, but it still holds most of its true character.

The Loo with a View is an expansive area. Photo: Patrick Woods.

Ms Neil believed most locals were eager to retain the structure, in some shape or form.

“It might have to be changed but I think we all want to keep the iconic flavour and place we all love,” she said.

Ms Neil said architects “love doing toilet blocks”.

“That’s because they are the hardest thing to do.

“Everybody uses toilets, and everybody has opinions about toilets and when you get a good one, it’s a really special thing.

“The Loo with A View was never average. It was always extraordinary and although times have changed and we’ve got all these new requirements for toilet blocks, they have become even harder to design and architects love them because of that.”

Stunning views from the Loo with a View. Picture: Patrick Woods.

She said there was plenty of interest surrounding toilet blocks in Redcliffe and at Caloundra (at the oceanside swimming pool).

“People get quite passionate about toilet blocks,” she said. “People become really attached to them.”

“The one in Caloundra was cleverly renovated and turned into a café and changing area.

“A lot of buildings by the sea get concrete cancer and they do need upgrading and updating but in an ideal architectural world they (council) would go back and talk to the original architects (to upgrade them).”

“It’s already a tourist attraction and if they could win another award for it, it would make it even better.

“But I don’t want to be pretentious about it, because if the community thinks it should go then it should go.”

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