Verandah Walk, James Cook University

In the heart of James Cook University in Townsville, lies the new Verandah Walk – a pedestrian and cyclist link that weaves through the regional campus. The southern and northern parts of the campus will be connected with a generous walkway that accentuates the landscape and supports student circulation.

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Wilson Architects has completed stage one of the project, the Verandah Walk South Node, which connects Education Central and the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library across Waada Mooli Creek. The challenge was to design a 420m long covered walkway that sits well on its site, without overwhelming visitors with its scale and length.

The design approach was to acknowledge the different landscapes and contexts on the site and design a site-specific response. The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library is a heroically scaled building facing a generous open eucalypt forest with dense landscape at the sides. 

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In response to the site the walkway is designed to be two distinct parts with differing characteristics. Either side of the Library are sinuous curving paths with reflective soffits weaving through the more dense tropical landscape setting. Linking these are straight sections of walkway with a bright green soffit colouring that are intended to form the first part of the typical Verandah Walk.

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The deliberately curved walkway with its cantilevered roof directs attention outwards to the landscape and the Library building, rather than focusing the user's view 'down the barrel' of a long straight path. The curved path provides the required wayfinding cues while creating an experience of ‘journey’, instead of ‘destination’. Polished aluminium soffits reflect the landscape of the ground plane, the spatial ambiguity heightening the sensory experience. Four pavilions extend out from the path and operate as connected outdoor learning spaces, with power and Wi-Fi throughout. Nearby fountains provide further respite from the hot climate, by creating a cooling effect and atmospheric background noise. 

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The connecting paths with their bright green soffit are also designed to direct attention to the landscape. The bridge over Waada Mooli Creek is positioned at a point where the creek bed opens out. The view downstream is framed and the balustrade dropped to encourage the visual connection.

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The section of walkway at the rear of the Library is different again as it opens up to the South and acknowledges the landscape up towards the mountains at the back of the Campus. At the connection with the curving walkway it folds up over to defer to the principal landscape walkway experience.  

A new pathway connects the front of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library under the massive overhang acknowledges the design context with precast circular seating and polished gravel margin.

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“Wilson Architects design of the verandah walk has embraced the landscape and redefined the campus experience. Distinctly lively and tropical through the day, it emerges as a vividly colourful yet tranquil setting by night – and of course there is a myriad of practical issues it has resolved.”
— Matthew Joyce; James Cook University Deputy Director, Planning & Development
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The Verandah Walk enhances the student experience and creates a sense of quality and permanence in the landscape. This project embraces and responds to the unique tropical narrative of the region, by considering light, shade, humidity, breeze, scent, water/rain and colour. Each section of the walkway is a considered and deliberate design response to its local landscape context. 

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STATS

Timeline
2013 - 2017

Budget
$2,650,000

Key Personnel
Hamilton Wilson, Phillip Lukin, John Harrison, Ilka Salisbury, Tomo Takada, Luis Sidonio & Michelle Duval

Services Provided
Architecture & Landscape Architecture

Awards
2019 QLD Architecture Awards - North Queensland Regional Commendation (Urban Design)⁣⁣



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