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Mt Ainslie should not become an archi-park

By Paul Costigan - 23 December 2015 9

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I am not sure how many times I have driven people up Mt Ainslie take in the magnificent panoramic views. It remains the best lookout to take in Canberra’s urban infrastructure, to appreciate the planning that underpins the city’s layout and to witness just how the nation’s capital is nestled in the landscape.

The facilities at the lookout have always been basic and this has not been a problem as most visitors go there simply to be above the city and to gain an insight into the city’s layout. What they most want is a clear view. Sadly, today these views are not quite what they used to be.

The announcement of the competition earlier this month to bring about a long-term plan for improvements to the lookout are definitely welcomed – but with some serious caveats.

This is a fantastic bushland site and it should not become an architecturally designed archi-park complete with all the latest shiny metal features, trendy gabion walls and useless rusty metal seats such as those in the park in the Kingston Foreshore.

Another concern is that too many good projects in Canberra end up being delivered badly. The most recent example of this is the Bunda Street Shareway that remains a good idea but the final design work is a mess.

Over the years, I have been witness to several concepts by agencies to introduce some heavy-handed architectural features to Mt Ainslie lookout. One in particular would have dumped a load of buildings, a major restaurant and viewing glass house to the side of the mountain. Luckily none of these ever got past the thought bubble stages.

There is no doubt that the site is overdue for some serious tender love and care as well as some minor enhancements.

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At present the stone walls are in good shape and there is no reason for them to undergo major changes. There are few bits that need repair but beyond that they are functioning well. The handrails could do with a paint job and that should happen straight away – no need for any expensive plans for that to happen now.

There is talk of a need for a café. I would say no to that and instead rely on pop ups for food and coffees etc. I would however look for the provider of this service to have something attractive.

The major change required, that also does not need any major planning as it is obvious to visitors, is that some of the side terraces should be redesigned and landscaped to include some formal picnic facilities including bench seating with shade roofs.

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Several trees now obstruct what used to be a clear view of the panorama. This problem particularly occurs when you ascend the steps around the light and you find that two trees have been allowed to pop up and are about to completely take out this viewing opportunity.

Any tree is important, but in the case of several around the top of Mt Ainslie, the decision needs to be made to remove them.

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Several times on the journey up the road to the top, my visitors have commented on their pleasure of seeing the Australian bushland, and if they were lucky, about seeing a kangaroo or two. This bushland aspect of Mt Ainslie has to be preserved.

However, it seems that others do not always appreciate this for the same reason, as there are several locations beside the road that are being used to dump rubbish. Some people just do not get it!

Mt Ainslie requires a design approach whereby ‘less is more’. This should definitely not become an archi-park.

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To be honest, any changes could be delivered without an expensive competition and without the intrusion of the panel of experts who dominate such processes and favour a few interstate firms.

This job could be delivered through the services of one of several local and very experienced landscape design firms. Let’s keep these jobs local for a change!

This announcement of the competition needs to deliver a plan that has as its basis a sensitive design approach to changes and enhancements.

Fingers have been crossed in the hope that this wonderful site does not get messed up.

Meanwhile we will now witness eager interstate consultants having lunch with government staff here in Dickson or over at the National Library (near the NCA) — all such major competitions have side benefits for our cafes.

What’s Your opinion?


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9 Responses to
Mt Ainslie should not become an archi-park
wottaway 5:23 pm 25 Dec 15

The last time I was up there was ’67,all pure and natural,none of the stuff in the photos although they look not overdone.I agree with some landscaping for picnics,but that’s all.

And work with the KISS principle,nature has already done the major work.

Queanbeyanite 5:02 pm 24 Dec 15

dungfungus said :

gbates said :

HenryBG said :

When planning progress and development, we really need to exclude the unimaginative as well as those who are reflexively negative.

You mean we really need to exclude people whose opinions are different to ours.

I am glad someone else is getting the “go to your homes and await instructions” narrative for a change.

There is plenty of room for some luxury terraced apartments on the north half of the hill.

Heavs 9:20 pm 23 Dec 15

Can you get a great view of the world famous ‘Dickson parklands’ from up there?

dungfungus 6:20 pm 23 Dec 15

gbates said :

HenryBG said :

When planning progress and development, we really need to exclude the unimaginative as well as those who are reflexively negative.

You mean we really need to exclude people whose opinions are different to ours.

I am glad someone else is getting the “go to your homes and await instructions” narrative for a change.

Masquara 6:02 pm 23 Dec 15

HenryBG said :

“This bushland aspect of Mt Ainslie has to be preserved.”

I disagree. We are surrounded by bushland full of kangaroos. There is no particular reason why the bushland on Mt Ainslie has to be preserved at the expense of using its prime location for exciting development.

If in future we have something fun and interesting on Mt Ainslie, you can take your visitors up there, “wow, this place is fun and interesting – and just look at the awesome views!” they will say. Then you can take them to Tidbinbilla, Paddy’s River, or the Old Boboyan Road, “Wow, look at the kangaroos – this bush is awesome” they will say.
Your visitors will therefore have twice the fun and take home twice as many memories.

When planning progress and development, we really need to exclude the unimaginative as well as those who are reflexively negative.

I drove past the Westside $1 million popup on the futsal slab next to the lake today – it’s school holidays, folks, and not a single patron to be seen. We really can’t trust this government to build good visit/fun infrastructure. Mt Ainslie already has considerable infrastructure up there that isn’t visible from the Land Axis. All that’s needed is an additional cafe/lookout structure that’s cleverly designed and isn’t visible from the Axis, and won’t play music that’s audible outside. There should be more parking – down the back a short walk away, other than for the less mobile. Seempul! Unfortunately, it’s rather suspicious that the government didn’t have a proper consultation with its publics on this. This means Barr already has his successful tenderer in mind. Let’s hope they aren’t anything like the Westside “Unterpreneurs” …

gbates 1:14 pm 23 Dec 15

HenryBG said :

When planning progress and development, we really need to exclude the unimaginative as well as those who are reflexively negative.

You mean we really need to exclude people whose opinions are different to ours.

HenryBG 12:12 pm 23 Dec 15

“This bushland aspect of Mt Ainslie has to be preserved.”

I disagree. We are surrounded by bushland full of kangaroos. There is no particular reason why the bushland on Mt Ainslie has to be preserved at the expense of using its prime location for exciting development.

If in future we have something fun and interesting on Mt Ainslie, you can take your visitors up there, “wow, this place is fun and interesting – and just look at the awesome views!” they will say. Then you can take them to Tidbinbilla, Paddy’s River, or the Old Boboyan Road, “Wow, look at the kangaroos – this bush is awesome” they will say.
Your visitors will therefore have twice the fun and take home twice as many memories.

When planning progress and development, we really need to exclude the unimaginative as well as those who are reflexively negative.

gbates 10:49 am 23 Dec 15

I’ve observed that the life-cycle of any piece of infrastructure in Canberra consists of building it with great fanfare, performing zero maintenance until it becomes prematurely dilapidated and then demolishing it in anticipation of the next thing that gets built there, usually unnecessary apartments. I wish you well in your efforts to promote sensible, yet not so announcable, improvements to the lookout area.

TuggLife 9:29 am 23 Dec 15

I agree that a competition and grand plans aren’t necessary. There isn’t much that needs to be much done – maintenance of some of the existing features, trimming back a few of the trees that obscure the main parts of the view. The parking is a bit crazy for Skyfire, and some more turning points on the road up would be good. I don’t think there’s a need for another café on a hill with a view – the café’s at Black Mountain and Red Hill are under-utilised. For a glass-encased view with good coffee, the Arboretum is available.

(PS Thanks for the link to gabion walls – I always wondered what those things were called)

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