Is this Australia's most beautiful gym?

Imagery: Terence Chin // @terencechinphotography

Words: Emma Vidgen // @emma_vee

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Historically speaking, gyms haven’t always been bastions of interior style. Dark, smelly and prone to fluorescent lights, they often feel almost intentionally awful – like they’re tapping into some kind of “the-harder-you-work,-the-sooner-you-can-leave psychology.”


But one studio in Sydney’s Surry Hills is changing all that. Paramount Recreation Club is the opposite of the gym we just described – it’s somewhere you’d actually look forward to visiting. “We designed a beautiful Californian style rooftop garden, as a tribute to the Paramount Pictures building, and some of the interiors pick up on this airiness,” says Bob Barton, who collaborated with Herbert & Mason on the studio’s design. “There are custom parasols that float across the space, and cactus, succulents and flowering plants give a sense of an inner city oasis.”


“We’ve tried to eliminate everything that is wrong with ‘workouts’, to be left with what is right about ‘recreation’”


The numb flicker of screens and pounding sound-a-like techno are noticeably absent. “No reading subtitled nonsense on Sunrise, no rugby league game replays,” says Bob. Instead, natural light, plants and open space reign supreme. “We exercise to feel good, which is emotional, and certain environments can make us feel stressed,” says Bob. “Rather than a gauntlet of equipment that people don’t know how to use, we focussed on body weight and some quality essentials. At every stage we questioned ‘Do we need that? Really?’”


PRC’s showers alone are reason to work up a sweat. “Oh and the bathrooms. They’re beautiful, light filled and breezy,” says Bob. “We created the feeling of outdoor showers with a glass brick building, with louvred shutters out to garden spaces.”


“Food is a focus rather than another measure of deprivation.”

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Food is a focus rather than another measure of deprivation, with protein powders and sports drinks making way for the real thing. “A small kiosk serves food focussed on the ‘everyday holiday’, with ‘healthy food, not health food’,” says Bob. “We designed lightweight tables and chairs that nod to tennis clubs, where often activity is more social than performance focussed.”


Guided by the principle that a fitness studio should feel more like a sanctuary than a sanitorium, the end result is a space that takes the work out of workout. “We’ve tried to eliminate everything that is wrong with ‘workouts’, to be left with what is right about ‘recreation,’” says Bob. “It’s about physical, mental and social health.” Amen to that!



Paramount Recreation Club
L2/80 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills, NSW, Australia 2010

Emma Vidgen