Placemaking. It’s a word that’s been bandied around since the 1960s when US writers and city planners began floating radical ideas of cities designed for things other than cars and shops. Hang-out hubs, if you like, before either of those words had been invented.
Think water features, murals, public pianos, big chess boards and sculptures, to name a few.
Well Canberra’s City Renewal Authority (CRA) is looking for more ways to inject such life into areas of Braddon and Civic, and is inviting expressions of interest, community groups and organisations with ideas for events, art installations, marketing campaigns and more.
To help make these dreams reality, there are multiple grants of up to $50,000 up for grabs too. This money comes from the City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy (CCMIL), a levy paid by commercial property owners across Civic and Braddon.
The CRA first offered ‘Placemaking Grants’ over 2021/2022. This most famously resulted in the ‘Big Swoop’ magpie sculpture in Garema Place, while subsequent programs have led to the garden beds on Lonsdale Street and the ‘Loaded Laneway’ festival near the Sydney Building.
Acting deputy CEO Jennifer Ramsay said the grants program was about generating interest, increasing visitation and improving the overall appearance of the city centre and Braddon.
“We’re looking for diverse, creative, innovative, and inclusive ideas that bring people to the city, and build their relationship with the area,” she said.
“An important part of creating great places is giving people more reasons to spend time in them.”
Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso from Canberra design studio ‘EggPicnic’ received $25,000 in the last round of funding to decorate a storage container in Braddon’s Haig Park, finished mid-December.
The mural echoes the rest of their colourful and geometric nature-themed artwork sprawled over Sydney Harbour Bridge for last year’s Vivid Sydney light show and Parliament House for the Enlighten Festival, as well as in other locations across Sydney and in the Canberra Airport.
“We started off with a survey we placed in a lot of shops throughout Braddon and Haig Park to ask the community what species they wanted to see on the container,” Christopher says.
“We got almost 400 responses.”
The second part of the project will be installed within the next couple of weeks, as an “augmented reality aspect”.
“So we have two interactive experiences, both through Instagram filters. You scan a QR code and through your phone, you’ll be able to walk through a banksia garden in Haig Park. For the second one, you scan another QR code and look to find a Christmas beetle on the container. When you find it, this will then reveal three dimensional Christmas beetles that cover the entire container.”
EggPicnic has previously experimented with augmented reality. In 2022, they created a filter on Instagram that superimposed a cockatoo hot air balloon onto images from your phone’s camera. Dubbed ‘SkyCockatoo’, it became somewhat of a local social media sensation.
Christopher said placemaking was “about bringing something into an area that connects the community to that object”.
“We’ve gotten a lot of emails recently since the piece was installed that people walk past it and love it. It’s become a landmark for the area and brings a lot of joy. For us, it’s the most important thing to create something with the community they can take ownership of.”
EggPicnic would love to see a similar grants program rolled out further south, specifically around Tuggeranong.
“The placemaking grants are city-specific, but we would love to spread across Canberra and do murals and pieces in the growing areas down south,” Christopher says.
An information session and workshop for the program will be held on Thursday, 15 February, to provide applicants with information about grants, assist with applications, and answer related questions.
Expressions of interest close on Tuesday, 5 March 2024. Shortlisted ideas will be notified in April 2024 and invited to make a full application. Successful projects must be undertaken between July 2024 and June 2025.
Visit the City Renewal Authority website for more information.
*This photo has been updated to reflect the climate-wise garden beds funded by the placemaking grant, rather than the other garden beds located in the median strip on Lonsdale Street completed as part of the Braddon Streetscapes upgrade.