Renewing a Narrow, Windy Space

Responding to a narrow, windy space receiving limited sunlight, this renewal project reactivates the space to create a hospitable and tactile experience for students and staff. The careful detailing of the timber offsets the harsh steel, glass and concrete of adjacent buildings, making room for socialisation, learning and relaxation.
Project Name
Monash University Parkville Courtyard
Case Study Type

381 Royal Parade
Parkville VIC 3052

Photographer Details


The Parkville Courtyard Refurbishment involved the renewal of a narrow and tall space between two multi-storey buildings affected by periodically windy conditions and only receiving limited sunlight along the southern edge of the space. BKK collaborated with Glas Urban for the design. The project comprised new platform seating along the southern edge to encourage a range of social and individual occupation modes, utilising the sun that does reach the courtyard, and new linear seating along the northern edge to provide a sheltered counterpoint to the more dispersed occupation of the space opposite. The predominantly timber materiality acts as a mediator between occupants and the steel, glass and concrete of adjacent buildings, creating a hospitable and tactile experience in a space used by students and staff to socialise, learn and relax. The design reactivates the space and provides a significant addition to the user experience at Monash University’s Parkville campus.

This project was an opportunity to use timber in an exemplary manner to create an educational and recreational space of high quality expected and merited in our leading education institutions. Used in a variety of applications (decking, seating, soffit lining, growing posts) with a number of time-honoured detailing techniques (herringbone, battening, laminated beams), the project demanded careful detailing and exceptional carpentry skill and workmanship. A high quality result was achieved through close collaboration between contractor, project manager and the design team.


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Located at Monash University’s Parkville campus, this small and underutilised courtyard area lies between two multi-storey buildings. With an east west orientation and partial enclosure at the east end, the courtyard receives only limited direct sunlight. The overall scale of the space with a length of around 50m, width of approximately 6m and a height to 3–5 storeys creates windy conditions in the space that discourages habitation. Additionally the existing configuration and state of the ground plane further inhibited usage. The brief called for treatment of two primary concerns – wind amelioration and usability. In response to this, a glazed entrance was provided (to limit air flows through the courtyard) and the ground plane was reconfigured and renewed to create an active and inviting space for students and staff. Native climbing plants were introduced along the southern edge of the courtyard. As the climbers grow they will create a screen to soften the boundary between the courtyard and the harshness of the existing surrounding buildings.

Timber was the primary construction material used throughout the project. The deck and canopy lining was constructed out of timber as was the framing of the platform seating and the final finish to the frame. Timber was selected for its softness in direct contrast to the steel, glass and concrete of the adjacent buildings. Known for its warmth and tactility, timber was used in response to the brief to create an inviting and comfortable area for staff and students. The courtyard was constructed over uncontrolled fill material between two buildings, supported over an existing workshop basement. The lightweight quality of timber, as the main construction material, enabled the uninhibited construction of the deck over the fill, and the inclusion of the ‘stacked’ platform seating which, if in concrete or stone, would not have been possible.

Timber used: Sugar gum (decking, platform seating); and cypress (laminated beam joists and posts).

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