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Architecture legend challenges West Basin plans

By Genevieve Jacobs 19 November 2018 65

Enrico Taglietti’s proposed line quarantining the lakeshore from private development (blue dots represent proposed lagoons). Image: Supplied.

One of Canberra’s most celebrated senior architects has directly challenged the City to the Lake and West Basin plans, warning against allowing “private profit masked as beneficial development” to alienate ordinary citizens from the lakeshore.

Enrico Taglietti was speaking at a symposium held in his honour at the National Gallery as part of the Design Canberra festival, in conversation with his longtime collaborator, Gianmatteo Romegialli. They’ve proposed a line around much of the current shoreline beyond which no private development would be allowed.

Their boundary line would block much of the proposed West Basin development, reserving it for parkland and public use and preventing “building for profit”. Mr Taglietti, who is a past winner of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ gold medal, said he believes that West Basin should be “kept free of interference”, and is “very concerned” by some of the Kingson Foreshore development as a model for what could happen elsewhere.

“The lake and the lakeshore are the breathing lungs of Canberra,” Mr Taglietti said, in a presentation that also called for population inside the original Canberra planning envelope to be limited to 100,000, moving further growth to the town centres.

He conceded that he would be open to changing his mind if the design work “was done properly,” but is concerned that lakeside development risks creating a space that’s “polluted and impossible to enjoy because everything is about making money, and that should not be the case”.

Alternatively, Mr Taglietti has proposed a “lagoons to the city” model (pictured in blue on the map) which would indent waterways and lagoons, pushing development back from the Lakeside itself.

The UNESCO-linked International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) called on the Territory government in May to immediately cease proposals for waterside apartment complexes as part of the West Basin development and asked the government to ensure that “the inclusion of Lake Burley Griffin and Lakeshore Landscape to the National Heritage List is progressed without further delay”.

Acclaimed Canberra architect Enrico Taglietti with Design Canberra CEO Rachael Coughlan. Photo: G Jacobs.

It’s a stance that resonates with Mr Taglietti, who first came to Canberra in the 1950s, and whose work has been acclaimed internationally. Notable Canberra buildings include the Dickson Library, the Polish White Eagle Club, the Apostolic Nunciature, the Italian Embassy and many private houses as well as major commissions interstate.

He believes that development priorities for the city should match the criteria for world heritage listing, aspiring to “be a masterpiece of human creative genius; be an important interchange of human values; bear exceptional testimony to our culture and be an outstanding architectural, technological and landscape ensemble”.

The original vision for West Basin included a sports stadium, aquatic centre and convention centre, but more recent iterations of the plan have scaled back those elements considerably, focusing instead on residential development and a waterfront promenade for retail and restaurants.

Critics including the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians say the public will lose seven hectares of Acton Park and 100 trees for the apartment development, effectively privatising the lake vistas. The ACT government, however, has said repeatedly that they believe improvements to West Basin are consistent with the requirements in the National Capital Plan and will strengthen the cultural and heritage value of the lake.

Should the West Basin development go ahead?


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Architecture legend challenges West Basin plans
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Fiona Spier 9:40 pm 23 Nov 18

Originally it was designed as a focal point, to connect the city and people with it through promenades and cafes, to have a cosmopolitan European feel which was felt a fitting thing for burley Griffins view of the capital. The reality is that we have different expectations as a community now and don't want to see the lake cut off from the public by buildings and concrete designed for the wealthier end.

mark boast 12:11 pm 23 Nov 18

I was one of those who thought that the City to the Lake concept was good. But my support was subject to solving the Parkes Way challenge that leaves too little space on the lake side for building, access, and the all important lakeside environment. I.e. cover Parkes Way and leave space for the lake – not fill it in!!

ricci 8:41 pm 22 Nov 18

Developers are only interested in money and not style or form. They should not be allowed anywhere near the lake foreshores.

jrsubs 7:25 pm 22 Nov 18

” The ACT government, however, has said repeatedly that they believe improvements to West Basin are consistent with the requirements in the National Capital Plan and will strengthen the cultural and heritage value of the lake.”

This Government and its planners have proven with Kingston foreshores that they are not capable of delivering quality, certainty, aesthetics, liveability or even decent architecture. They are entirely untrustworthy and will give away anything, any value, for money. Time and time again they’ve pulled this “great values, interesting architecture, what a lifestyle” trick to get their pet projects started and then allowed (directed?) it to degenerate into rectangular blocks of stultifying flats.

J.m. Byrne 7:16 pm 21 Nov 18

Preserve your foreshores Canberra for public access! As an ex Sydneysider i have often bemoaned the limited access to our beautiful harbour waterfront for walking, riding and sightseeing. Once it's gone you can never get it back!

g210 9:19 am 21 Nov 18

When one looks at some of the poor development and lack-of-planning going on around this city (Molonglo anyone?) is it any wonder there are those who get their backs up at the thought of any development around the lake?
We keep hearing the same bingo phrases being regurgitated by our government, planners & developers, yet with depressing repetition the same poorly thought through cookie cutter crap appears.
Development can be great. But not when $$$ are the only real consideration.

Colette Robinson 7:16 pm 20 Nov 18

So basically all of Yarralumla...

Lucy Baker 7:02 pm 20 Nov 18

KingstonForeshore isn’t inspiring at all. Bodes ill for the West Basin plans, they are not going to be good in Mr Barr’s hands.

Bella Morgan 5:22 pm 20 Nov 18

Its beautiful now and serene. There are eateroes now that people can go to. If they don't like scenery they can go to the city in a few minutes

Dan Smith 12:46 pm 20 Nov 18

That space is for the people. Not for friends of parliamentarians wanting to commercialise our lifestyle and the look and feel of Canberra.

The green and gardens around the lake keeps pollutants from the lake and keeps the fish and waterway healthy.

If you build on it the lake will become a dead cesspool.

    Daniel Königs 1:43 pm 20 Nov 18

    Dan Smith nobody is saying build in the whole thing. But if you want a waterway or green space with no development that doesn’t feel like the middle of the city, why don’t you go for a drive to googong, cotter or good hope?

    Dan Smith 8:22 pm 21 Nov 18

    Daniel Königs this bit. Then this bit. Then this bit. Oops no more bits and why does the water stink 😢

Wendy Apostoloff 8:24 am 20 Nov 18

Definitely no more development around our lake ...it belongs to us all and we should have access to enjoy it !!

astro2 7:36 am 20 Nov 18

Agreed. It is possible to strike a balance between parkland/open space and the built environment. Canberra still has a way to go before it matures into a modern international city. There just seems to be a knee-jerk reaction by some groups against any development.

    Jim9 2:08 pm 20 Nov 18

    I hate the old NIMBY term as its a misnomer in so many cases, but this is a perfect example of Nimbyism at its best. Not saying what is proposed is the optimal solution, but it doesn’t take much to see what a waste the West Basin area currently is – its a prime location that should be far better utilised, whether for development or something else.

Amanda Evans 5:07 am 20 Nov 18

Enrico makes a good point. The privatization of public space changes the look and experience of our city - forever.

Once we give up our cherished views into, around and across the lake, we will lose our sense of our place, our city and our story.

The lake is central to Canberra's identity ...and not only belongs to every Canberran but to every Australian and we as the custodians really need to engage with that idea more than we are currently.

This is a place which should be cherished for the fact that it exists in such a beautiful landscape setting and should never stoop to the poor quality of ideas, form and experience that is the concrete bathtub known as Kingston Foreshore - the original idea of which has been continuously compromised to the point that the development fails on so many levels - failings which can never really be rectified as there is no space to do so.

The risk with the privatisation of West Basin's public landscapes is that it risks becoming another development which compromises the very elements which define it.

Perhaps we should identify why we need this development at this time and then follow a rigorous design process based on public benefit and not profit. Whilst we have a CBD which doesn't look or function as one, our energies would be better directed at rectifying the failing public spaces, access to businesses and connectivity in and around the city first.

Robert Knight 12:10 am 20 Nov 18

Time and again in this conversation I show this image. The lake was never meant to be a wilderness posing as open public space. It is meant to be an integral part of the city, with urbanity reaching all the way to its shores.

Better than rejecting any development near the lake we should be demanding something of quality to be built, creating a place of beauty to be enjoyed by not just Canberrans, but the nation. It should be our city’s postcard to the world.

    Christie Hartfiel 5:11 am 20 Nov 18

    Robert Knight Enrico is not rejecting all development, just private development which prevents the lake being used by the public. Griffin/Mahony designed the lake as a democratic space. When Kingston Foreshore was built, the lake front was blocked off for years. That’s not free access. We can have high quality public buildings right up to the lakefront.

    Libby Oakes-Ash 5:14 am 20 Nov 18

    I do agree Robert. The Kingston Foreshore is a prime example of “what might have been”... it could have been stunning with lots of green space, easy access to the water, beautiful interesting buildings. While I love living here I hate the fact that all the buildings are concrete and so uninteresting and there is no where to dangle your feet in the water, no park for kids, no public toilets, and everywhere you look more concrete. It has a lovely vibe but this area could have been so much more with better planning and better development.

    Trish Roberts 5:26 am 20 Nov 18

    - should further private development around Lake Burley Griffin go ahead? In a word, no.

    Robert Knight 7:29 am 20 Nov 18

    Warwick Penn Bradly, I’ve grown up here and spent plenty of time walking, running, riding, picknicking and BBQing around the lake to appreciate what it is. So much of it is under utilised, inaccessible grassland and scrub walled off from the city by a four lane freeway. If you think about great urban parks and lakes around the world they are all surrounded by intimately connected urbanism. LBG is a confused mess between wilderness, urban park, and ornate landscape to look at as you drive past it at 80km/h.

    I note that Enrico is not rejecting all development around the lake, just poor quality private development which restricts public access to the lakeside. I agree with him. I just have a problem with the gross NIMBYism of people who want nothing to change, particularly when what we’ve got doesn’t come anywhere close to what Walter and Marion envisioned for Canberra.

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 9:11 am 20 Nov 18

    Libby Oakes-Ash I fully agree with you Libby. When planning a get-together with friends that area is the last we’d pick. Unattractive & expensive venues on top.

    Jane Goffman 7:42 am 21 Nov 18

    It's an interesting conversation with many facets, and digging beneath the surface there are several themes that run through it. The concept of guardianship starts from a place of threat and a passionate desire to ensure that something of value is still there intact in the future. Demonstrating bona fides, listening to why people care and choose to block, and finding a way to respect that sensibility and offer a useful strategic plan for the lake as a whole a la Central Park in NY or Stanley Park in Vancouver seems worth pursuing

Bolbi 10:58 pm 19 Nov 18

When reclaiming parts of the lake to allow more development seems to be part of their plan, I can’t put any trust in the government focusing on anything other than as much development as possible. I’m sure Barr will try to tell us how wonderful the development is, but I’d prefer a reasonable amount of land to be reserved for public use as suggested in this article, without reducing the size of the lake.

Daniel Duncan 10:51 pm 19 Nov 18

This would be good. No ugly, soulless building around the lake please.

Ben Roberts 10:05 pm 19 Nov 18

No no no. The labour government is determinef to ruin Canberra with more apartments and revenue raisng at the expense of public space. And a kick back or two perhaps.

Flynn Dovey 9:58 pm 19 Nov 18

I know I’m in the minority here, but a cafe or two along the lake would be lovely!

    Ruby Stead 10:28 pm 19 Nov 18

    Flynn Dovey I totally agree, this is something that’s really lacking in Canberra! The ability to go to the lake and have a bite or get an ice cream would be perfect 👌

    James Forge 12:05 am 20 Nov 18

    Regatta point, either side of reconciliation place, The National Library cafe, the Yacht club, Kingston foreshore and The Boathouse not enough for you?

    James Forge 12:06 am 20 Nov 18

    Oh and the cafe in Weston park near the nursery.

    Libby Oakes-Ash 5:10 am 20 Nov 18

    Ruby Stead plenty of cafes on the lake at Kingston Foreshore. Bean and Table, 38Espresso and 7th and Bake all with water views. So there are some options 😄There is the beautiful Deck Cafe with stunning views at Regatta Point, there is a nice little cafe right on the lake at Reconciliation Place, there is the Bookplate cafe at the National Library with a fantastic outdoor space, fish and chips and ice creams right on the lake at the Southern Cross Club, there is the great little van at the Carillion, the Fantastic National Museum cafe that sits right on the water, and a great little cafe at Weston Park with the lake on your doorstep.

    Libby Oakes-Ash 5:15 am 20 Nov 18

    There are many on the water Flynn.

    Daniel Königs 7:39 am 20 Nov 18

    and what is there in west basin? The abandoned pedal boat hire place? Everyone better get in their car and drive drive drive, heaven forbid there’s anything over that side.

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 8:54 am 20 Nov 18

    Libby Oakes-Ash Where?

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 9:00 am 20 Nov 18

    Libby Oakes-Ash The readers here are talking about the other side of the lake, where the paddle hub is (used to be?). The Kingston Foreshore doesn’t have a nice view, just a bit of water & apartment buildings all over.

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 9:01 am 20 Nov 18

    Daniel Königs I hear you Daniel. Nothing there.

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 9:02 am 20 Nov 18

    James Forge No, not enough. Or rather, not convenient or reasonably priced enough. The National Library! Who’d want to go there just for a coffee.

    Flynn Dovey 10:14 am 20 Nov 18

    The cafes that are there just aren’t great, vibrant cafes that embrace the gardens and the lake!

Avril Pounds 9:58 pm 19 Nov 18

The entire lake is a popular running/walking route for many people. I'd much prefer to exercise out in the fresh air, with a nice view of the lake, than in a gym staring at a treadmill screen.

    Vivien Muñoz Durret 8:53 am 20 Nov 18

    But this govt is so development-mad, Abril. Time to dish this mob out of the Legislative Assembly for good with few exceptions.

Moss Bunney 9:52 pm 19 Nov 18

I just wish the lake could be used for motorised watersports

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