The Magnolia Courtyard
Through revitalising a harsh brutalist and neglected courtyard, the Landscape Studio of NBRSARCHITECTURE has created a vibrant, engaging open space for the Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE NSW. The sophisticated courtyard at the St Leonards campus creates a communal learning area and serves as a space for a range of functionalities.
Transforming a disused space into a vibrant oasis
The existing space was found to be isolated and visually uninviting as a result of overgrown vegetation. Access into the courtyard could be gained solely through the adjacent building’s fire escape which resulted in minimal usage of the space and a lack cohesion with the wider campus. A collaborative approach between disciplines was adopted from an early design stage to improve connectivity between the courtyard and the broader campus with the aim of creating a new heart of the Institute. Integration of new doors, stairs and ramps from the main ground floor level further encourages students to meet and gather in the revitalised space.
The building cleverly disguises the complex courtyard that sits bounded by its four walls. With proposed access into the courtyard from both the ground and lower floor levels, including access from plant rooms, fire escapes and student common rooms, many constraints were presented from initial stages. Retaining an existing large Magnolia tree presented further challenges in achieving desired levels in respect to numerous door openings and accessible ramp grades. The resulting designs have provided a multilayered and flexible space, offering opportunities for outdoor learning, formal class structures, private study sessions, as well as a space to both relax and socialise.
Accessible without compromising on design
Sculptural timber benches located adjacent to the upper lawn terrace complement the geometry of the tiered concrete seating and subtly merge with an accessible path of travel from the ground floor building level to the courtyard level below. The upper lawn terrace provides lush turf for rest, relaxation and events, resonating greenery throughout the courtyard and into the multiple building wings. Cable wire installed on various sides of the building façade with vines will eventually soften the harsh walled environment and again resonate greenery into the overlooking offices and lecture rooms. The emphasis on providing a green oasis aims to lure students as well as staff into the courtyard, encouraging outdoor learning, moving away from traditional lecture rooms and enclosed offices.