Prior to an architectural intervention, there was next to nothing connecting the sprawling regional campus of James Cook University in Townsville. If it was a disjointed walk, it was an even more rambling cycle. But then, Wilson Architects came on board with a piece of architectural coherence to tie it all together.
First and foremost, Verandah Walk is an exercise in wayfinding. But its functional purpose is more far-reaching, and includes everything from weather protection to technological connectivity. The meandering path weaves its way through the heart of James Cook University, serving as a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly link between Education Central and the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library across Waada Mooli Creek.
As the path runs for almost half a kilometre, it was important to ensure that users didn’t become overwhelmed by its scale and length. Along the course of Verandah Walk, Wilson Architects have included a series of ‘nodal’ meeting and seating areas for student study and collaboration – a healthy, outdoor alternative to indoor study, and a practical way to break up a classroom commute.
“Four pavilions extend out from the path and operate as connected outdoor learning spaces, with power and Wi-Fi throughout,” says the architect in a design statement.
“Nearby fountains provide further respite from the hot climate, creating a cooling effect and atmospheric background noise."
James Cook University is heir to Queensland’s spectacular tropical landscape, so it was only right that Verandah Walk maintained strong links with the environment. Rather than acting as an alternative to nature, Verandah Walk integrates with its surrounds. Even as it provides protection from the elements, it points attention outwards through a curved shape that opens up new vistas periodically. A mirrored ceiling and reflective aluminium lines in the soffit further incorporate landscape views.
In the words of James Cook University deputy director Matthew Joyce, “This project embraces and responds to the unique tropical narrative of the region by considering light, shade, humidity, breeze, scent, water / rain and colour. Increased access to daylight and air circulation [improves] levels of concentration, cognitive function and mental wellbeing for students, staff and visitors.
“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 [are a number] of practical issues it has resolved.”