Listening to the Land: Behind the Design of The Canopy on Normanby

Listening to the Land: Behind the Design of The Canopy on Normanby

The beginning of each Gamuda Land project is underpinned by our key guiding principle of ‘listening to the land’.

  • By Gamuda Land
  • 23 May 2023

We collaborate with experts to undertake extensive research to understand the history of the site and learn about its natural features. We do this to understand where to build, what systems to use and ensure we’re having a positive impact on the location from a biodiversity standpoint. In addition to this, we also seek to understand the cultural and spiritual significance of a specific location, particularly important for indigenous and local communities.

Ultimately, by listening to the land, we can develop a deeper appreciation for its inherent value and work towards creating a development that not only meets our immediate needs but also ensures the health and vitality of the land and its inhabitants for generations to come.


The Canopy on Normanby was no exception to this process. In the early stages of the project, we engaged the services of Indigenous Cultural Advisors MURRI: YUL to understand the area’s pre-colonial history.

It was this research that identified that prior to colonization, the site was once situated between low-lying woodlands and wetlands where it was recognised as a Kangaroo Ground.

It was later industrialised as part of Port Melbourne and South Melbourne’s dramatic expansion in the 1900s, where it was home to the Dunlop Tyre Factory.

We wanted to pay homage to the site’s industrial past as well as its natural history by incorporating these elements into the materiality and design choices. Our goal is to ensure that the next phase of its existence has a positive impact on its residents, the local community and the environment.

Finding the right fit

Following a strategic selection process we appointed national architecture practice, Hayball to help us realise our vision for The Canopy on Normanby. Hayball is an award-winning practice which brings a methodical and research-based approach to its designs that aligned closely with our own values. Most recently, the practice designed the Mornington Peninsula’s holistic wellness offering, Alba Thermal Springs & Spa.


Using history to inform the design

We recently sat down with Bianca Hung, Interior Design Director at Hayball about their approach to incorporating our philosophy of “listening to nature” into the project’s design.

“Our design focus centred around creating a connection to nature and a sense of place that supports well-being, creating a sanctuary in the home.

We developed a curated sensory experience; an interplay of daylight (sight), texture (touch) and scent (smell) to allow residents to achieve a sense of calm and ease from the moment they step foot in the building.” Bianca explains.

Bianca went on to highlight how the material choices were heavily influenced by the natural history of the area.

“The material palette used consists of natural materials such as stone, timber, brushed nickel, and textural accents. Utilising neutral shades, we are able to provide both warmth and a clean backdrop for residents to add their own personality/style to the apartments.”

The site’s rich industrial heritage inspired The Canopy on Normanby’s outer façade with vertical metal angle fun balustrading, screening, and a staggered roofline. The early work with MURRI: YUL gave the Hayball team insight into the natural area which went on to inform the aesthetics of the building, particularly the colours.

Biophilic Design

From the outset of the design, the team at Hayball recognised they would need to find a way to seamlessly integrate Gamuda Land’s unique biophilic design principles.

The design is driven by nature and sustainability with a focus on well-being that allowed them to interpret these principles in unique ways through design elements like:

  • Functional apartment layouts that maximise natural light, cross-flow ventilation and tactility
  • Generous balconies that extend open living areas beyond their boundaries and integrate with the surrounding greenery.
  • Environmentally sustainable materials such as low-VOC paints and finishes.


The environmentally conscious principles embedded in this project will create a connected and real community. These principles are carried throughout the interior to promote long-term apartment living.

Blog Banner

To learn more about The Canopy click here

Creating a Soundproof Sanctuary in Inner-city Melbourne

Learn more