19 November 2018

Architecture legend challenges West Basin plans

| Genevieve Jacobs
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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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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!!

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

” 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I wonder what his opinion is of the current area, unused car parks, a foreshore that is barely used and has become a home for homeless people to camp?

Plenty of architectural value?

Or perhaps we can recognise that most people want to see the foreshore developed to create a valuable and vibrant waterfront precinct?

You have nailed the issue on the head Chewy that is conveniently ignored by the ‘no at all costs’ brigade. Yes we need clearly reasoned consideration of how and what should be developed in the city, and more specifically around Lake Burley Griffin. But that area proposed for development is an absolute waste of space in its current form. It has no value in its current form. Proposed development of the area should be put up against other approaches that could be utilised for the space.

Its a bit like the ramblings of Paul Costigan about the ‘Dickson Parklands’. Trying to portray something as currently having substantial value to the community, when in reality what is there does not.

None of my comment condones what is proposed for the space – but to me its an obvious area where options should be considered, as it is a prime location in terms of its geographical location in the city, and currently is a completely under utilised part of the city.

The work so far around the area with public space, walking paths, picnic areas and exercise equipment is being well used so there’s obviously a need for a well thought out development to be undertaken. Perhaps those who are absolutely opposed to any type of development should ask themselves how they see Canberra growing into the future. What ideas would they have to accommodate this growth?

The thing that annoys me the most is when they talk about the natural lake views and amenity provided by the lake and foreshore.

It’s a man made lake, if their type of anti development attitudes prevailed in the 60’s, the lake and beauty that they want to “protect” wouldn’t even exist.

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