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Westside wonder

By Paul Costigan 27 May 2015 52

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Last July the ACT Government announced plans to develop a shipping container village by the lake on the west side of Commonwealth Avenue. I missed the original announcement, but having now read some of the media releases, I can see that there was a lot of optimism about how this wondrous project was going change our lives.

I was out of the country for quite a bit late last year, but when I was in Canberra in late September I drove past the Westside construction for the first time and was unable to work out at exactly what I was looking.

To be honest, having walked around the Westside site in April, I am still not sure what it is really all about. I have read the spin and looked at information online, but the reality is something else. This thing they called Westside is a mess! I wonder, did our glorious National Capital Authority, who came down heavy on that red burger van on the other side of the lake, provide their approval for this blight on the landscape?

Last September I attended a photography festival in Singapore and was taken aback when we walked to the site early in the week to see that construction was just starting for a major opening to be there on the Friday night. Well despite all our doubts, it happened. The centre has continued to be an innovative art centre to this day. When I questioned the event director about how she brought it all together in time, she laughed and explained that Australia was at the leading edge in the use of shipping containers for such innovations. Here’s a picture or two from the opening night in Singapore.

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So what is going on here in Canberra? The ACT Government generously blessed someone’s bright idea with close to one million dollars on the grounds that it would be ready for Floriade (no, not this year’s Floriade. Floriade 2014).

Whether you agree with this initiative or not, many – myself included – are stunned that this million dollar so-called pop-up centre is yet to fully pop-up. There are some food vans now open, and apparently they are optimistic about being fully functional very soon. I just love optimism!

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The use of shipping containers and other materials to build exciting structures for cultural activities is now a well-accepted model. In the hands of people who know what they are doing, previously overlooked spaces in cities have certainly been brought to life and become fun places to gather. Sadly for Canberra, this Westside project is yet to be one of these success stories, despite all the tax payer money.

I would usually throw heaps of praise at any government that takes calculated chances and goes out on a limb to something that is culturally innovative. So far this isn’t one of those.

I can only imagine that someone in our government has believed their own hype around the developments in Braddon and they thought that it could be easily exported from Braddon to another part of the city. Naivety in government can be a dangerous thing when it comes to cultural events and a million dollars.

I hope that this Westside shambles is not going to spoil opportunities for realistic creative ideas for cultural activities any time in the near future. I cannot help to think what the same amount of money assigned to some of our established artists or experienced arts organisations could have done to bring some life to that piece of our cherished landscape.

Someone in this government needs to re-think how such decision are made.


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Westside wonder
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karmatraveller 1:36 am 30 May 15

I wonder if it would have been a good idea for the writer of this article to have actually gone down to the Westside Acton Park prior to posting his rant to see what the site as become in the past few weeks. A steady influx of parliamentary workers and CBD public servants visiting the site during their weekday lunch breaks. The site on weekends is frequented by families, people exercising around the lake, and groups coming in to use the street basketball and futsal soccer setups. There’s a custom BMX track being finalised, and a bunch of upcoming events invigorating the Canberra social scene.

Have there been issues? Yup. But how about a thumbs up for government initiative, and a bit of support for local entrepreneurs.

P.S… maybe you should have had a read on the City to Lake initiative before finalising your article.

oh_ 9:03 pm 29 May 15

I went before Skyfire and it was great! Not sure how popular it’ll be on brutal winter days and nights but in summer weather no problem. From memory its only temporary installation anyway until the ACT Govt is ready to develop the site for other uses. Hooray something different and experimental in Canberra!

dungfungus 12:09 pm 29 May 15

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

Is that 18 months since work commenced or 18 months from now?

Under this criteria it will still be there after the next election.

Under the same criteria, so will the Labor government.

rosscoact 9:36 am 29 May 15

dungfungus said :

Is that 18 months since work commenced or 18 months from now?

Under this criteria it will still be there after the next election.

rosscoact 9:35 am 29 May 15

rubaiyat said :

Whenever you want a vastly overblown, poorly sited, extravagant eyesore, engineers are your go to.

This is almost universally true. Engineers are only responsible for things not falling down. I don’t know who the architects are and they have not done an admirable job here but it the end, it’s the client that creates the brief.

dungfungus 8:50 am 29 May 15

Masquara said :

dungfungus said :

Sandman said :

The problem with doing public projects in this city is that the public feels entitled to appoint themselves as consultants on every aspect of the project.

The contractors working on this project see other another problems such as not being paid.
The public have been misled on this one – it was “sold” as a temporary “pop-up” fun-thing but with all the regulatory oversight delaying completion it is clearly meant to be permanent.
We have ourselves to blame to allow a “Port Botany on Acton” to evolve as we have tolerated a container being sited outside old Parliament House for the past 30 years.
Random placements of shipping containers anywhere are questionable. These two examples are eyesores (public eyesores to be precise) and they are truly cringe-worthy.
At the risk of repeating myself again, this government continually finds new ways to waste money.

Not permanent according to the ACT Govt rep interviewed on 666 the other day. Shelf-life of 18 months for our $950,000, he said.

Is that 18 months since work commenced or 18 months from now?

wildturkeycanoe 6:37 am 29 May 15

vintage123 said :

If executed correctly should look something like this
http://www.modular.org/images/image_event/10conv/4393a.pdf

This looks more like the blueprints for the Gungahlin Tramway than a hotel, although I first thought they were specs for an alien spacecraft.
It’ll never happen, the safety issues of having people interacting amongst hydraulically moving sections alone would be an OH&S nightmare. Then you have the problem of power reticulation of components that are always in motion. Nice “out there” idea but in practicality not going to happen until technology is able to make electricity transmittable through air.

On another note about shipping containers, they are not very good at letting mobile phone signals through so any structure clad by steel will need mobile signal boosters so you can keep Tweeting your friends.

rubaiyat 1:57 am 29 May 15

rosscoact said :

However in this particular instance I would have assumed that say, the structural engineering design was almost certainly done by a consultant. And the engineers were probably well-paid, or at least paid as well as any professional, but probably less than they themselves think they are worth.

Whenever you want a vastly overblown, poorly sited, extravagant eyesore, engineers are your go to.

Thankfully they didn’t turn to any competent architects for this job.

However we got to this position, IMHO it is poorly sited, unimaginative and gets barely any usage, even with the laughable target of “every long weekend”. Held up against every other similar pop-up it is wanting in execution, visual appeal and results.

So yes I have reluctantly joined the chorus yelling “Get your garbage off my lawn!”

rubaiyat 1:48 am 29 May 15

rosscoact said :

Tymefor said :

I worry how old a lot of the commenters are beginning to sound on riot.

“…beginning to sound……”?

The Riot Act is often the digital equivalent of yelling “get off my lawn!”

ROTFL!!!!

Tymefor 7:57 pm 28 May 15

being a younger organisation its best to follow them on Instagram for the best info @westsideacton

https://instagram.com/westsideacton/

for those still on browsers……..

Masquara 7:27 pm 28 May 15

dungfungus said :

Sandman said :

The problem with doing public projects in this city is that the public feels entitled to appoint themselves as consultants on every aspect of the project.

The contractors working on this project see other another problems such as not being paid.
The public have been misled on this one – it was “sold” as a temporary “pop-up” fun-thing but with all the regulatory oversight delaying completion it is clearly meant to be permanent.
We have ourselves to blame to allow a “Port Botany on Acton” to evolve as we have tolerated a container being sited outside old Parliament House for the past 30 years.
Random placements of shipping containers anywhere are questionable. These two examples are eyesores (public eyesores to be precise) and they are truly cringe-worthy.
At the risk of repeating myself again, this government continually finds new ways to waste money.

Not permanent according to the ACT Govt rep interviewed on 666 the other day. Shelf-life of 18 months for our $950,000, he said.

dungfungus 6:14 pm 28 May 15

vintage123 said :

ChrisinTurner said :

Seeing Canberra has the largest shipping container building (in the world?) at ANU, surely we can do better. See http://www.quicksmarthomes.com/applications/student-housing/australian-national-university.aspx

How did we end up something like Westside? It is just plain ugly and I am ashamed to have to explain to visitors, when passing by, what it is.

I believe it was due to the government accepting an unsolicited proposal from a company with no experience in similiar projects. If they had released a tender for a competitive process aimed at the applicable market they would have had a better chance for success. These evolutionary designs are best left to the experts.

However noting the willingness of the government to accept such proposals I am considering firing one in for the landscaping, in keeping with the theme I am sure 400k to supply some rusted out old 44 gallon drums, a few used tyres and maybe a feature wall of used VB stubbies would be considered bespoke recycling and appealing. No dramas rolling the tyres and drums to the next pop up location.

“……some rusted out old 44 gallon drums, a few used tyres and maybe a feature wall of used VB stubbies……”
This could be a dedication to past pop-up villages like Baringa Gardens, Burnie Court and Fraser Court.

rosscoact 5:34 pm 28 May 15

vintage123 said :

Mysteryman said :

Maya123 said :

Shipping containers can be used in exciting ways. I visited the shipping container shops in Christchurch, NZ and was ‘blown’ away by how exciting they were. They were used after the original building were destroyed in the earthquake.
https://www.google.com.au/search?q=christchurch+shipping+containers+shops&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=InVlVYiNA83d8AX41YPoAQ&ved=0CB0QsAQ&biw=1435&bih=940

That’s exactly right. And despite what others are saying, they are generally much cheaper. Anyone who has worked with them will tell you that.

When I had an opportunity to invest in shipping container homes, I investigated it and researched it extensively. I instead invested in this concept.
http://www.treehugger.com/modular-design/not-shipping-container-house-it-something-far-more-significant.html
Please note why it is evidenced that shipping containers are not actually suited to building.
I also invested heavily in 3d printing homes.
http://www.businessinsider.com.au/3d-printed-houses-construction-industry-neighborhoods-2015-3
We are currently looking at concepts to facilitate a $300 a m2 build cost, which would see the average cost to build a typical canberra home plummet to around 100k.
I am confident we could have built Westside for around 300k and within 8 months.

This is really good stuff. I looked for a self-sufficient container home on a trailer but was looking at $85k for a single container. And that was without the decks etc and without the trailer costs.

I figured that even with sub-average skills and getting a lot of help I could do it way cheaper than that. I was considering something like what this https://youtu.be/RSzgh3D7-Q0. Hire a piece of yard somewhere and get it to lockup in a month and finished in three.

But I’ll go look at those links. $300m2 is game changing

vintage123 4:21 pm 28 May 15

Mysteryman said :

Maya123 said :

Shipping containers can be used in exciting ways. I visited the shipping container shops in Christchurch, NZ and was ‘blown’ away by how exciting they were. They were used after the original building were destroyed in the earthquake.
https://www.google.com.au/search?q=christchurch+shipping+containers+shops&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=InVlVYiNA83d8AX41YPoAQ&ved=0CB0QsAQ&biw=1435&bih=940

That’s exactly right. And despite what others are saying, they are generally much cheaper. Anyone who has worked with them will tell you that.

When I had an opportunity to invest in shipping container homes, I investigated it and researched it extensively. I instead invested in this concept.
http://www.treehugger.com/modular-design/not-shipping-container-house-it-something-far-more-significant.html
Please note why it is evidenced that shipping containers are not actually suited to building.
I also invested heavily in 3d printing homes.
http://www.businessinsider.com.au/3d-printed-houses-construction-industry-neighborhoods-2015-3
We are currently looking at concepts to facilitate a $300 a m2 build cost, which would see the average cost to build a typical canberra home plummet to around 100k.
I am confident we could have built Westside for around 300k and within 8 months.

vintage123 4:07 pm 28 May 15

ChrisinTurner said :

Seeing Canberra has the largest shipping container building (in the world?) at ANU, surely we can do better. See http://www.quicksmarthomes.com/applications/student-housing/australian-national-university.aspx

How did we end up something like Westside? It is just plain ugly and I am ashamed to have to explain to visitors, when passing by, what it is.

I believe it was due to the government accepting an unsolicited proposal from a company with no experience in similiar projects. If they had released a tender for a competitive process aimed at the applicable market they would have had a better chance for success. These evolutionary designs are best left to the experts.

However noting the willingness of the government to accept such proposals I am considering firing one in for the landscaping, in keeping with the theme I am sure 400k to supply some rusted out old 44 gallon drums, a few used tyres and maybe a feature wall of used VB stubbies would be considered bespoke recycling and appealing. No dramas rolling the tyres and drums to the next pop up location.

Genie 4:02 pm 28 May 15

I haven’t been there as yet, so cannot comment on what it’s like but I’m looking forward to their first market on Satuday 6th June.

ChrisinTurner 3:43 pm 28 May 15

Seeing Canberra has the largest shipping container building (in the world?) at ANU, surely we can do better. See http://www.quicksmarthomes.com/applications/student-housing/australian-national-university.aspx

How did we end up something like Westside? It is just plain ugly and I am ashamed to have to explain to visitors, when passing by, what it is.

vintage123 1:38 pm 28 May 15

If executed correctly should look something like this
http://www.modular.org/images/image_event/10conv/4393a.pdf

rosscoact 11:02 am 28 May 15

dungfungus said :

rosscoact said :

Mysteryman said :

Sandman said :

The problem with doing public projects in this city is that the public feels entitled to appoint themselves as consultants on every aspect of the project.

Why shouldn’t they? They are the financiers.

Well that’s certainly the case, the only problem is that you get 100 of the great unwashed into a room to talk about a project there will be 100 different, mostly uninformed, almost exclusively self-interested opinions.

Any consultant that behaved in that way would be sacked at the very least.

The public make very poor consultants.

Are you trying to tell me that we need highly paid consultants to advise on dumping a stack of ugly, empty shipping containers in the centre of Australia’s beautiful capital?
We really have got the government we deserve and the voters to keep them there.

My comment was a more broader comment in response to the broader comment I quoted.

However in this particular instance I would have assumed that say, the structural engineering design was almost certainly done by a consultant. And the engineers were probably well-paid, or at least paid as well as any professional, but probably less than they themselves think they are worth.

So I guess the actual answer to your specific question is yes.

dungfungus 9:40 am 28 May 15

rosscoact said :

Mysteryman said :

Sandman said :

The problem with doing public projects in this city is that the public feels entitled to appoint themselves as consultants on every aspect of the project.

Why shouldn’t they? They are the financiers.

Well that’s certainly the case, the only problem is that you get 100 of the great unwashed into a room to talk about a project there will be 100 different, mostly uninformed, almost exclusively self-interested opinions.

Any consultant that behaved in that way would be sacked at the very least.

The public make very poor consultants.

Are you trying to tell me that we need highly paid consultants to advise on dumping a stack of ugly, empty shipping containers in the centre of Australia’s beautiful capital?
We really have got the government we deserve and the voters to keep them there.

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