Curtin University’s Galvanized Yarning Circle Pays Tribute to Indigenous Culture

The Curtin University Indigenous Learning Circle, known as the Yarning Circle, is a significant project for the University and its Centre for Aboriginal Studies. A cultural and educational celebration of Curtin’s Indigenous community, the Yarning Circle’s rammed earth seating and large steel canopy will provide the Curtin University and wider communities a space to pause, meet, reflect, and connect.

With construction completed in August 2020 by Hoskins Contracting, the outdoor venue will provide On Country and integrated learning experiences for Curtin students, staff, and visitors. The Yarning Circle will provide links to the transformational learning and education of Noongar Culture seen at the university’s Nowanup Bush Campus and contribute towards Curtin University’s continued action towards Reconciliation.

The new outdoor venue will increase the use of Jack Finney Lake and activate the natural oasis for learning and leisure activities. The project also strengthens the bonds between the Perth campus and the Nowanup Bush Campus, providing a conceptual link between the two.

The Yarning Circle features a canopy designed to echo a thatched roof, which creates dappled lighting and a sense of enclosure. The entire canopy and its supporting structure was hot dip galvanized by Hartway Galvanizers Naval Base.

The structure was comprised of two very large diameter sections—each of which was 12.4m by 4.5m—joined together to create the canopy.

The canopy was created using interwoven rod and reinforcing bar to create a thatched roof effect. The material used in the canopy included 5.8 tonnes of rolled RHS and round bar rods with the final dimensions being 12.4m by 9m in width comprised of two halves to allow double dipping of the items. There were also nine CHS columns required to support the canopy.

According to Paul Edmondson (Works Manager, Hartway Galvanizers Naval Base), “The design of the interwoven rod and reinforcing bar necessitated an extremely intricate fabrication process, as well as careful consideration of venting and drainage requirements during galvanizing. The end result is a true testament to the high-quality workmanship and attention to detail delivered by all members of the project team.”

“The galvanizing industry will benefit from this project in several ways. The project demonstrates the benefits that galvanizing can deliver in architectural and sculptural purposes (for which galvanizing is often overlooked).”

“Its location in a prominent university will serve to educate future generations of architects and engineers about the aesthetic appeal and durability of galvanizing. Lastly, it demonstrates that early involvement of the galvanizer in the design stage can help reduce costs, rework, and ensure the project stays on-schedule,” said Edmondson.

A Distinctive, Natural Appearance

The entire structure was painted with a duplex coating using Porter Paint Liquid Iron finish, with Insta Rust applied to give it a weathered finish. A topcoat of Instant Rust Clear Sealer was also applied. This coating served dual purposes: it enhanced the aesthetics of the structure, creating a finish akin to weathering steel that blends naturally with the surroundings and pays homage to Australia’s landscape; and it further enhanced the durability, and therefore service life, of the structure.

“The distinctive, natural weathering steel patina complements rural environments particularly well, but can offset modern architectural features, like concrete, just as effectively. Weathering steel finishes also conjure images of the Australian outback, which was particularly important given the Indigenous links embedded in this project. As such, this project has the potential to expand the demand for galvanizing by opening new markets and applications,” said Edmondson.

Venting and Drainage Engineering

As Edmondson explained, the most challenging aspect of the Yarning Circle project was its design and engineering, particularly those aspects related to venting and drainage.

“We liaised extensively with the client and fabricator on the design of the venting, so that it would not be visible once the canopy was erected. This was because the venting required was quite large and, had it been visible, would have detracted from the overall impact of the structure.”

“In addition, the sheer size of the structure at 12.4m x 9m meant that the galvanizing process itself was challenging. This was particularly difficult because our galvanizing bath has a maximum depth of 3m—careful planning was required to ensure a superior quality finish on all steel,” said Edmondson.

In order to overcome these challenges, Hartway was engaged early in the project and liaised regularly with the project fabricators, Living Iron, on the delivery of the design drawings.

Significant Cost Savings

As Hartway Galvanizers Naval Base was involved in the project early, and readily able to contribute to the design of the canopy and supporting structure, significant upfront cost savings were recognised by Curtin University.

For example, by ensuring that venting and drainage requirements were correct early in the process, none of the steel had to be re-fabricated or re-dipped. In addition, designing the steel dimensions around the size of Hartway’s galvanizing bath, meant that the items could be split into two 12.4m x 4.5m sections, and double dipped in the 3m deep bath. By utilising the two halves, not only was galvanizing possible, but the transportation of the items under escort was much simpler.

Finally, Hartway’s extensive industry experience meant there no items were distorted post-galvanizing. This eradicated the need for straightening by the fabricators, as well as surface treatment touch-ups.

Long-term Cost Benefit

The specification of hot dip galvanizing, protected by duplex coating, provided a finish with superior durability and corrosion resistance to either galvanizing or paint alone. In effect, the Yarning Circle’s canopy and its supporting structure will last a lifetime.

It is estimated that the canopy and its structural steel will not require any major maintenance for at least 60 years. In comparison, if the canopy had been finished with a standalone three-coat paint system, it is highly likely that it would have required maintenance in about 10 years’ time. This extensive difference in lifespan means that Curtin University has significantly reduced its ongoing maintenance costs.

Involvement of Curtin University Students

In an innovation addition to the project, Curtin University architecture students, overseen by the project’s lead design consultant UDLA, were involved in the initial design development through a Work-Integrated-Learning design program. This innovative program enabled students to not only gain valuable experience on a real-world project, but see their designs come to fruition.

“Given its location at Curtin University, the Yarning Circle will be on full display to generations of university students—many of whom may choose to embark upon a career in the construction or infrastructure industries,” said Edmondson.

“Students will use the Yarning Circle to gather and connect. As such, the Yarning Circle has the potential to become a real-life advertisement for the longevity and aesthetic appeal of galvanizing and duplex coating, targeting the very students who may one day be responsible for specifying these processes on major projects.”

Project Team:

  • Owner: Curtin University
  • Builder: Hoskins Contracting
  • Designer: UDLA
  • Fabrication and Installation: Living Iron
  • Galvanizer: Hartway Galvanizers Naval Base