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Architecture legend challenges West Basin plans

Genevieve Jacobs 19 November 2018 53

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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53 Responses to Architecture legend challenges West Basin plans
Fiona Spier 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.

J.m. Byrne 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!

Colette Robinson Colette Robinson 7:16 pm 20 Nov 18

So basically all of Yarralumla...

Bella Morgan 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 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 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 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 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 !!

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 5:06 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 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 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.

    Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 5:26 am 20 Nov 18

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

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 7:28 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.

    Jane Goffman 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

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 10:51 pm 19 Nov 18

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

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 10:00 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 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 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 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 James Forge 12:06 am 20 Nov 18

    Oh and the cafe in Weston park near the nursery.

    Daniel Königs 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.

    Flynn Dovey Flynn Dovey 7:48 am 20 Nov 18

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

Avril Pounds 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.

Moss Bunney Moss Bunney 9:52 pm 19 Nov 18

I just wish the lake could be used for motorised watersports

Fiona Spier Fiona Spier 9:48 pm 19 Nov 18

Yep, too much development already.

Paul South Paul South 9:33 pm 19 Nov 18

Time for icac to look into who the bar govt is in bed with .. where are all those hard working reporters ? Oh their taking it too

Warwick Penn Bradly Warwick Penn Bradly 9:24 pm 19 Nov 18

Totally agree. Keep the greedy developers away from the open space around the lake. That space is part of the character of Canberra

Tim Cole Tim Cole 8:55 pm 19 Nov 18

But "no commercial developments" don't make large and generous political donations

Daniel Königs Daniel Königs 8:55 pm 19 Nov 18

I think that the foreshore and west basin activate the lake, but no further lake development should be allowed. But Canberra is full of vocal NIMBYs afraid of progress who would rather suburban sprawl twice as far as Tuggeranong.

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 8:38 pm 19 Nov 18

What is on the waterfront currently lacks any architectural merit so not allowing more mediocre buildings blocking the lake is a good idea.

    Paul South Paul South 9:31 pm 19 Nov 18

    Kriso Hadskini they'll be knocking em down soon ... built way dodgey

Craig Elliott Craig Elliott 8:32 pm 19 Nov 18

Good...I'd extend it further near the city....give people some green space....

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