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Sweet Home Ala Canberra

By Sass Anne Swagger - 10 August 2010 33

Like many small towns, Canberra sometimes seems unashamedly hell-bent on opening its floodgates to rampant and irretrievable development.  The number of commercial and residential projects currently underway and expected developments to come, are all signs of this progress… something of the sweet smell of bitumen and the melodious sounds of a nearby construction site must surely sound as sweet as the ‘ka-ching!’ of money tumbling into the ACT government’s coffers.  

Mindless comparisons with other national capitals have been made to boost the notion that bigger has to be better, if only to compete with all our bigger brothers.  As unrealistic as these comparisons have been, the echo of that eternal question keeps reverberating:  “Is bigger, better?”  I hear the whispered affirmation by what seems to be an acquiesent majority, “yes it probably is”, but more importantly it should be asked to whom?

Canberra’s growth has certainly done us all proud, we have many more sources of entertainment, more international artists actually pay us a visit, and some of them are not yet in the retirement phase of their careers, although it is interesting to note that many international, hot artists still prefer to hold a concert in Bowral rather than perform for us here. More choices as to what to see, do and eat for the weekend makes us all rather complacent about the amount of concrete being poured over what was just another vacant kangaroo-infested paddock.

But despite all this wonderful concrete, tarmac and steel buildings, will Canberra be anything but a very adolescent city desperate to pave over its appearance of immaturity and its obviously drab perspectives on architecture and design.  Where is Canberra’s modern day contribution to proper urban planning and design, or its architectural answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Rome’s Coliseum or D.C.’s Congress?  Where is Canberra’s heart and planned ‘garden-city’ soul?   Perhaps the city has sold both off to the highest bidder over a vacant kangaroo-infested paddock and is not looking back.

What’s Your opinion?


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33 Responses to
Sweet Home Ala Canberra
trevar 3:11 pm 10 Aug 10

astrojax said :

but where are the architectural highlights outside the triangle and city? hyperdome?

LOL I’ll pay that one.

But I am a quiet fan of the new Belconnen Arts Centre, and the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, although dated, is not a bad looking pile.

On a broader note, though, I feel that Canberra is rather more humble than its international counterparts. The very idea of plonking parliament down into the hill reflects something characteristic of Australia; we’re not that showy, and we’d rather let the land speak for itself. As much as I like Sydney’s Opera House, international visitors were raving about Cadi (Sydney Harbour) for centuries before that was built.

As much as I would like to see a more focused urban centre and some kind of architectural marvel, such things come with inherent problems. For me, places like Sydney, Paris and London are inspiring places to visit, but Canberra’s built for living in. It’s (mostly) functional, but at the same time (mostly) pleasing aesthetically. Not many of the world’s great cities have managed this blend particularly well (Washington DC and Edinburgh are pretty good as well IMHO).

Kerryhemsley 3:06 pm 10 Aug 10

astrojax said :

Pommy bastard said :

What does Neil Young think about us then?

i really don’t rekkun neil is thinking about us at all, sadly. he’s just an old man – i mean, look at his life, eh?

A high voice and ridiculously straight hair

p1 2:42 pm 10 Aug 10

astrojax said :

…but where are the architectural highlights outside the triangle and city? hyperdome?

Massive dishes out at the Deep Space Tracking Station?

astrojax 2:02 pm 10 Aug 10

…and there was the old cameron offices, they won an award – i always wonderdd at the monstrosities they musta beat…

i also think the old administration (now john gorton) bld and its (now treasury) counterpart are quite nice. the high court, strangely, has grown on me and its sense of space is delicious for its function.

will second the house on the hill – stunning architecture – and the museum. have to dissent on oph – pretty ordinary really, waste of a great location…

but where are the architectural highlights outside the triangle and city? hyperdome?

astrojax 1:59 pm 10 Aug 10

Pommy bastard said :

What does Neil Young think about us then?

i really don’t rekkun neil is thinking about us at all, sadly. he’s just an old man – i mean, look at his life, eh?

GardeningGirl 12:40 pm 10 Aug 10

I agree with Holden Caulfield and Thumper, we’ve got some pretty good buildings, new and old. Unfortunately we also have a lot of conspicuously shabby uninspiring areas (someone please fix up the Sydney and Melbourne BUildings, so much potential!).

p1 12:25 pm 10 Aug 10

Holden Caulfield said :

In fact, so far as monumental/grand architecture goes, I’d say Canberra holds its own quite well. There’s something to cater to all architectural tastes as well.

I agree, there is also the Carillon, telecom tower, the National Library, even that weird orange thing at the National Museum. Considering it is not possible of anything in Canberra to be more then 100 years old, I think we are doin’ all right.

gospeedygo 12:23 pm 10 Aug 10

Pommy bastard said :

What does Neil Young think about us then?

I’m wonderin’ why he isn’t speakin’ out? Maybe he just decided to walk on the beach? (I’m pissed off he didn’t come to Canberra in 09′)

Holden Caulfield 12:10 pm 10 Aug 10

Thumper said :

Old Parliament House is pretty special too…

Quite. I’d give a big tick to most of the buildings inside the triangle to be honest. To me, all have their own unique identity and charm.

Thumper 11:59 am 10 Aug 10

Old Parliament House is pretty special too…

Thumper 11:56 am 10 Aug 10

Neil is off somewhere with a cinnamon girl.

Holden Caulfield 11:44 am 10 Aug 10

“Where is Canberra’s … architectural answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Rome’s Coliseum or D.C.’s Congress?”

Have you missed the building on the hill?

Not sure about anyone else, but I reckon that’s a pretty special piece of architecture. The Australian War Memorial is not too bad, either.

In fact, so far as monumental/grand architecture goes, I’d say Canberra holds its own quite well. There’s something to cater to all architectural tastes as well.

Pommy bastard 11:22 am 10 Aug 10

What does Neil Young think about us then?

JessP 10:58 am 10 Aug 10

I guess people have to live somewhere…and I am not talking about the hordes coming to make us a BIG CANBERRA, but just the bods who need to come here for work, or the local kiddies who grow up and want to rent or buy a home, or the students or retirees.

I am not a the big option at all but our house prices are bad news and the only way to improve it is to increase the number of homes available…..

thy_dungeonman 10:33 am 10 Aug 10

“a city for sale and doomed to quick destruction, if it should ever find a buyer”

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