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Sweet Home Ala Canberra

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.


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33 Responses to Sweet Home Ala Canberra
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JC JC 4:25 pm 11 Aug 10

p1 said :

JC said :

AG Canberra said :

Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?

Unfortunately you need one or the other. My preference has always been for sprawl, as it really narks me that we live in such a massive country but in ALL new area’s are forced to live in each others pockets. Give me the good old 1/4 acre block anyway day.

Personally I am for both. The reason I bought a 35+ year old house is that it comes on a nice sized block. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the same money, for the same sized house, on a block under half the size. But I also think the the town centres are the places where more dense housing should go. New suburbs close in should get the crap sub 450sqm blocks, and rows of town houses. And developments/redevelopments in the town centres should get the apartment buildings. Any increase in density on the outskirts of of the city just increases the overall travel of the population.

Agree, but that isn’t urban infill, that is simply having higher density housing where it belongs.

p1 p1 11:37 am 11 Aug 10

JC said :

AG Canberra said :

Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?

Unfortunately you need one or the other. My preference has always been for sprawl, as it really narks me that we live in such a massive country but in ALL new area’s are forced to live in each others pockets. Give me the good old 1/4 acre block anyway day.

Personally I am for both. The reason I bought a 35+ year old house is that it comes on a nice sized block. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the same money, for the same sized house, on a block under half the size. But I also think the the town centres are the places where more dense housing should go. New suburbs close in should get the crap sub 450sqm blocks, and rows of town houses. And developments/redevelopments in the town centres should get the apartment buildings. Any increase in density on the outskirts of of the city just increases the overall travel of the population.

bd84 said :

Is there actually a point to this post or is it just the random musing of a drug effected individual?

I wish I was drug effected.

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 11:13 am 11 Aug 10

I thought they’d worked a bit of a miracle with the exterior of the mall, it’s looking much better than a few years ago.

Thumper Thumper 8:29 am 11 Aug 10

There are some nice cultural gems hidden around the city if you look.

All Saints Church, North Ainslie Primary School, the old Coggins bakery building, Blundell’s cottage, St John’s school house and church, and many others including plenty of deco places in the inner south.

Okay, it’s not London, but we’ve only been here for a hundred years.

However, belconnen mall is a revolting concrete slab and the sooner the Russian nuke the place the better.

hax hax 8:07 am 11 Aug 10

We should build the worlds tallest building to one-up every other city.

JC JC 6:42 am 11 Aug 10

AG Canberra said :

Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?

Unfortunately you need one or the other. My preference has always been for sprawl, as it really narks me that we live in such a massive country but in ALL new area’s are forced to live in each others pockets. Give me the good old 1/4 acre block anyway day.

sexynotsmart sexynotsmart 11:05 pm 10 Aug 10

bd84 said :

Is there actually a point to this post or is it just the random musing of a drug effected individual?

+1
I don’t know which is a bigger waste of my time. This thread or watching Sopranos repeats.

Does Passy have another pseudonym now?

astrojax astrojax 10:34 pm 10 Aug 10

luther_bendross said :

Whilst as pointed out, the parliamentary triangle and civic have a lot of really nice buildings, that’s where it stops. A drive through Belconnen reminds me of Soviet Russia circa 1979, whereas Crace reminds me of my perineum. However, comparing Canberran architecture to that of Paris and Rome is a bit of a stretch, as one of those three cities was not present during the Renaissance. The same two that were present were built around naturally beautiful rivers and landscapes, the other was placed on a sheep farm as a result of a stalemate between two larger cities and was given a fake lake and free carp.

rome has free carp? i’m there!

bd84 bd84 10:10 pm 10 Aug 10

Is there actually a point to this post or is it just the random musing of a drug effected individual?

peterepete peterepete 8:07 pm 10 Aug 10

Give us a few hundred years….I reckon for a new city we’ve got a lot to be grateful for – but that doesn’t excuse mindless development.

Pork Hunt Pork Hunt 6:47 pm 10 Aug 10

luther_bendross said :

Whilst as pointed out, the parliamentary triangle and civic have a lot of really nice buildings, that’s where it stops. A drive through Belconnen reminds me of Soviet Russia circa 1979, whereas Crace reminds me of my perineum. However, comparing Canberran architecture to that of Paris and Rome is a bit of a stretch, as one of those three cities was not present during the Renaissance. The same two that were present were built around naturally beautiful rivers and landscapes, the other was placed on a sheep farm as a result of a stalemate between two larger cities and was given a fake lake and free carp.

After looking up “perineum” I laughed so hard my mirkin fell off…

SolarPowered SolarPowered 5:32 pm 10 Aug 10

“Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?”

In summary, this is how it would go….

Sprawl gives inner city types more to feel superior about.

Infill gives inner city types more to complain about.

Next.

p1 p1 5:19 pm 10 Aug 10

luther_bendross said :

Whilst as pointed out, the parliamentary triangle and civic have a lot of really nice buildings, that’s where it stops. A drive through Belconnen reminds me of Soviet Russia circa 1979, whereas Crace reminds me of my perineum. However, comparing Canberran architecture to that of Paris and Rome is a bit of a stretch, as one of those three cities was not present during the Renaissance.

Exactly. Drive through the parts built in the ’70s & ’80s of any of the great European cities and you will be unlikely to find the architecture any more pleasing then Belco’ and likely a lot less open space.

Furry Jesus Furry Jesus 5:08 pm 10 Aug 10

AG Canberra said :

Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?

Has any major city or town in Australia? Wasn’t Neville Wran’s last act as Premier to say that Sydney’s urban sprawl should end, no more greenfields expansion…immediately repudiated by his successor, then by his successor, and presumably by the current Premier.

Who was it who said ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.’?

AG Canberra AG Canberra 4:06 pm 10 Aug 10

A few years ago I provided a tour of Canberra to a European couple (who were billionaires many times over). After deciding to visit Australia they made a point of spending a week in Canberra. The reason was to see and spend time in a planned capital city.

They were amazed at our space, the town centres and the Parliament buildings. He was excited to see all ‘modern’ buildings and so much grass. She loved that all the institutions were in the central area.

He also thought that Canberra should be preserved in it’s current state and serious discussions should ocur before allowing unchecked sprawl and infill. He reckoned that eventually the unique character of Canberra would change for the worse and we’d end up with a generic city undistinguisable from any other….

Have we ever had a proper discussion on sprawl or infill?

luther_bendross luther_bendross 4:05 pm 10 Aug 10

Whilst as pointed out, the parliamentary triangle and civic have a lot of really nice buildings, that’s where it stops. A drive through Belconnen reminds me of Soviet Russia circa 1979, whereas Crace reminds me of my perineum. However, comparing Canberran architecture to that of Paris and Rome is a bit of a stretch, as one of those three cities was not present during the Renaissance. The same two that were present were built around naturally beautiful rivers and landscapes, the other was placed on a sheep farm as a result of a stalemate between two larger cities and was given a fake lake and free carp.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 3:25 pm 10 Aug 10

astrojax said :

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

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

In defence of Cameron Offices and buildings of that era, they had a space and light around them. Before the term “breakout room” was invented there were trees and natural light flowing into buildings. While there might be a move back to capturing natural light now it can never be quite the same when developers are intent on maximising every square metre of space fro profit.

Here’s an old RA thread I just found which, ironically, partly illustrates the point:
http://the-riotact.com/?p=3142

Benjamin Offices are another example of where light, space, landscape have been mostly razed for shiny glass, steel and, most of all, maxed out office space.

That’s not to say the modern way is inherently wrong, but more to illustrate that just because something was built largely from what is now considered ugly exposed concrete that it was bad.

In regards to other architectural highlights; firstly, does a city need a minimum number of such buildings to meet some made up criteria of what makes a city good?

Secondly, in their own way, the following all form part of what makes Canberra Canberra:
Government House
The Shine Dome
Canberra School of Art
Melbourne & Sydney Buildings
Mt Stromlo telescopes
Manuka Pool
Any number of embassy/high commission buildings

There’s a reasonable amount of moderately significant residential architecture in town, too, as shown by the Canberra House website.

trevar 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 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

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