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”.
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?