There are serious problems with the National Capital Authority (NCA) that could be addressed by the soon-to-be-elected ACT Federal politicians. I have outlined the background to the issues in a piece in City News – click here
Social housing in Canberra as overseen by the ACT Government is not something seen as being well done. Here in Canberra’s inner north residents are involved in a long running battle to save some precious community land being rezoned for residential use – with social housing being used as the Trojan Horse. Here’s my piece in City News
This post starts with being in front of our house at 6.15 am listening to the cacophony of sounds coming from what must have been a rowdy Christmas Day gathering of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos at end of the street (near the Dickson Drain).
Following weeks (or was that months) of questions over land dealings and major developments, and now audits being announced into departmental processes, the Chief Minister has gone on the front foot and announced an idea to change his government’s methods of consulting on ‘Urban Redevelopment’.
It was just days before Christmas (2014) when local residents may have noticed that a development application with big ramifications for their precinct was now available online for comment – with a month in which to submit any comments.
I have mentioned articles written by a local, Michael Moore. While he holds down a very busy job in health, he continues to devote serious time to punching out thoughtful articles in one of the local free newspapers. They are most welcomed.
Exhibition: John Witzig at National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
till 19th October 2014, then touring.
The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra has done itself proud with this special exhibition of photographs produced from the archive of the photographer John Witzig. Full marks to the historian curator, Sarah Engledow.
The Solomon Islands High CommissionI spotted this example of successful embassy architecture as I was driving past to have lunch at the Beaver Gallery Cafe in Deakin. From the available online information (and there’s not much) I think these new buildings for the High Commission for the Solomon Islands were completed around 2011/2012.
An opportunity has presented itself with the Commonwealth Government’s announcement to allow the National Capital Authority (NCA) to open up the Parliamentary Triangle to more commercial opportunities. (CT 12 July, Page 1, Shopping in the triangle? It’s a private matter)
I have no problem at all with more commercial activity happening within the Parliamentary Triangle. The question is just how to intelligently implement such a change to this landscape that presently serves as a national monument.
I have said it before and am happy to say so again, I live in a suburb in Canberra that has a fabulous amount of trees. The amount of trees in the public arena, streets and parks etc, combined with those throughout the residential properties delivers an ambience that is hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it.
It has been a long puzzle of mine as to just what makes an architecture project an award-winning project. I know that it cannot be just who sits on the award jury and who knows who, so it must be something else.
At the seminar at the National Gallery of Australia, the Indonesian artist FX Harsono made a presentation as an Indonesian of Chinese decent who is now researching and making art about the treatment of the Chinese communities in the early days of the Indonesian republic.
There’s a fantastic video on exhibition in which FX Harsono deals with his Chinese name, in that he is writing it continuously while other forces are washing it away.
Recent Canberra Government development announcements
In recent weeks and months there have been several significant development proposals announced by the territory (ACT) government in Canberra. If all the government’s ambitions come to fruition then residents about to witness some very serious alterations and additions to the make-up of several parts of the inner city urban fabric.
Several months back there was an article by Christopher Vernon, of the University of Western Australia, putting forward the background and argument for a permanent memorial in Canberra for Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Click here for that article.
There are various things scattered around Canberra that tell their story.
A review of new architecture and spaces within the ANU (Australian National University) Part One
Across Australia there are stand out examples of campus design amongst many of our universities. In more recent years I have had reason to visit campuses in all the states and back here in Canberra and have been constantly impressed with some of the architectural and landscape work. In most cases I have been positively impressed with the work and in others I have been taken aback.
There was much ado about this whole precinct development when it was being built and this continues through to today. Having visited the site a few times now, to meander, to eat, to meet for coffee and the occasional business, I have to say that it is a very mixed result. It is worth a visit on a busy day to see for yourself. But it does not match some of the rhetoric that has been put about – click here for an example of some project-porn spin*.
Review: Landscapes at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra
These comments not are about the exhibitions of the War Memorial. These are comments about the building and recent additions.
Many times the expression is used when an architect is talking about a building, about how their architecture fits into the landscape. In most cases this proves to be just false architectural spin. However there is one building here in Canberra that does sit beautifully with the landscape. That building is the Australian War Memorial in Canberra
Visits to suburban cafes during 2014 for weekend breakfast/ brunch; we live inner north, so it will be those within easy range. Watch this space as the list grows! all reviews – click here
Hudson’s of Dickson, Dickson Shops
There are three cafes in this location, with Hudson’s being in the middle. I have been to Hudson’s too many times to recall. It is Hudson’s in name only – in that the original owner moved on years ago and the present owners retained the name.
Opinion: Proposals on fast track development precincts
Introducing democracy into ACT planning and development
Feathers have been quietly ruffled locally as the ACT Government (local government for Canberra) has announced it is to introduce a new proposal that would see identified precincts developed using a fast-track development process. This change to planning has been reported on in the Canberra Times and should be read before reading my comments that follow below – click here
What follows was edited down as a ‘letter to the editor’ on this subject.
A new future for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra
The tent embassy has had a mixed history since the first one was established in January 1972 in Canberra right in front of the former Parliament House. There is a reasonably full history on wikipedia – click here. It is worth reading.
Presently the number of tents varies as does the level of activity. Over the years I am aware that the government as well as the National Capital Authority have had discussions about its future. Nothing has changed except for the comings and goings of the residents.
Visits to suburban cafes during 2014 for weekend breakfast/ brunch; we live inner north, so it will be those within easy range. Watch this space as the list grows! all reviews – click here
Tosolini’s, Corner London Circuit, West Row, Civic
I have been to this cafe over the years far too many times to even ponder counting. Manly for coffee and the occasional meal. I used to eat their cakes, but with age, and dangers of putting on weight, the cakes etc are no longer for me.
The desperate need for frank, honest, timely and evidence based advice.
Remember how things were during the more optimistic days of living in Australia, when climate change was not a dirty word or two?I am referring to the times of the Kevin Rudd and then Julie Gillard governments.
Back then the country was known internationally as taking a whole raft of initiatives to deal with climate change mitigation and adaptation.
We intend to visit suburban cafes during 2014 for weekend breakfast/ brunch; we live inner north, so it will be those within easy range. We intend here to visit suburban cafes for weekend breakfast/ brunch; we live inner north, so it will be those within easy range. Here’s the latest. There’s more online – see link below this review.
Beware politicians and designers:We love our Lawns
In a previous post I had spoken of Australia’s love of the lawn. (click here)
In particular I mentioned a local battle over Green Square at the Kingston Shops in Canberra whereby the local government had replaced a green square of lawn with a designed space, complete with brick walls and seating and drought friendly, low maintenance plants.
There is just one lone piece of art at the new Cotter Dam site. I am not sure of its placement on the fairly bare site in front of the very dominating new dam wall. Seems no creative landscape design was employed to enhance its placement.
Late in 2013, there was much ado in Canberra about the completion of the new Cotter Dam. The new wall is a replacement and enlargement of the previous dam on the Cotter River. It was built as a result of the ten-year drought and the need for water security for Canberra.
The surrounding recreational areas had been devastated in the 2003 bush fires and the whole area has been rejuvenated to once again be a reaction area for locals and visitors on the outskirts of the capital.
Angel of the North at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
It was just this week that I managed to get myself down the wonderful National Gallery of Australia’s sculpture garden to have a look at the Angel of the North. The piece has been on location for several years. This was the fist time I have seen this piece. Of course, this is the life-size marquette of the original Angel of the North, being about one tenth the size of the original.
There was a routine piece in the Canberra Times about the current heat wave, temperature around and above 40 Degrees Celsius, and backyard trees or in some case about the lack of them. The article pointed to the now well established reality, that during such times those residential properties that lacked shade were suffering higher temperatures.
Once the devastating 2003 Canberra fires were over, the Canberra landscapes to the west of the Lake Burley Griffin were left denuded of the previous forest. The subsequent international design competition delivered a much celebrated design for a National Arboretum.
If you have not already read it elsewhere on this blog, I love trees. Our home is now immersed in shrubbery. Ever morning we awake to sounds of all the bird life that enjoy our the biodiversity in the garden in our street. The front has been planted and designed in such a way that when we sit on the front verandah and look in a northerly direction, all we see are trees and shrubs. There homes and cars in that direction, but they a blocked out so that it looks as though we look out on a private parkland. But despite our private parkland and that a wetland is five minutes away, we do venture out occasionally to see what others are doing with trees. Occasionally!
This is an unfortunate case of how things can get out of hand and go wrong in a huge way.
Sometimes the planets line up and all sorts of magic can happen. At other times, no matter what positive steps are taken, some things are just destined to go off the rails. It also does not help to have bureaucratic spin doctors, media loving a beat up, writers being over zealous in their responses and creative people being precious.
In this case the losers were the people of Australia, particularly women, who deserved to have in 2003 a significant memorial public art piece to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage.
Sculpture of Ben Chifley and John Curtin, Canberra
I have driven passed this sculptural piece, by Peter Corlett, many many times. The pair of sculptures look very natural on the corner to the extent that I dare say the casual observer and busy drivers may pass by and miss that they are bronze figures. There’s no plinth. They have been attached directly onto the footpath.
Canberra is a garden City. We love to surround ourselves with trees, shrubs and gardens. There are heaps of birds in our suburbs. Take a short drive into the country and things change. Here’s a few images from one such drive yesterday.
This exhibition is an intriguing one. There is no doubt that the visitor gets a bang for their buck, in that there is lots of gold and many glittering objects in this exhibition.
This is not one of those where the marketing has talked about all that glitters, and you are disappointed to find the odd gold item and lots of other stuff. In this exhibition of 200 objects there are gold objects in abundance plus lots of other wonders.
Review: Photography at Canberra Museum and Gallery
Lens Love, The Tender Gaze of six Canberra Region Photographers.
It is indeed wonderful for the Canberra Museum and Gallery to have an exhibition of photography. The exhibition brings together the works of six local photographers, most connected through the Canberra School of Art.
On the western edge of Canberra’s CBD, next to the Australian National University, on the side of Black Mountain, sits one of the National Capital’s often overlooked treasures, the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Although it figures in tourist brochures, I am not aware of large numbers of visitors. I am also not convinced that local Canberrans visit this site very often or that they think to take their visitors there.
The photograph below was taken outside Canberra’s Museum and Gallery. The tree was being erected in Canberra’s Civic Square for some coming special event. It was when I took the photograph that my mind flipped back to an event in 2007 in San Francisco.
I recommend a visit to the Canberra Museum and Gallery to see this collection (and at times maybe the other exhibits). Although you may have to bring in your own chairs to spend any time in this exhibition. I am not sure who thought that to perch on those silly vinyl foot-stools in the middle of the room would enhance a visit.
Dealing with the complex issues of climate change adaptation should by now have become a priority and part of the everyday for any local government in their oversight of design, planning, development and the re-development of our settlements.
Here in Canberra we have been the subject of a decade or two of pronouncements from newly appointed chief planners on how they are to oversee development that is sustainable and .. lots of other spin that always sounds so sensible!
First an admission. I used to be a reasonably keen urban cyclist . However some time back, I had two serious near misses whereby I was run off the road by local buses. After the last bruising, the bike sat in garage till one day I sold it on. Whenever I can , I now walk instead. But I do miss the experience of cycling through neighbourhoods.
Today there was a very good summary in the Guardian on the situation and changes to urban cycling across many cities internationally. Click on the image below.
There’s currently a crazy debate here in Canberra about cyclists and vehicles and pedestrians. Crazy because the debate has been dominated by no so cool people who are not accepting of any other point of view. So I wonder what the problem is?
This is a first venture into the new park within the slowly evolving foreshore development at Kingston , Canberra. First impressions are of lots of detail, very contemporary and any park besides the lake is to be a welcomed addition to local amenities.
Take a quiet little street in Downer. Local artist Stephen Harrison is a resident. Stephen asks the neighbours if he can take over the street and their front yards for the weekend. They say yes. Stephen then brings in the work of about three dozen artists. And so a fun weekend arrived……
Unfortunately someone has bravely announced that it will be Canberra’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Does that mean there will be an equivalent of the Arcde triomphe, the avenue is to be lined with large international expensive shops, huge crowds day and night, massive amounts of traffic (four lanes each side) and a host of ever-present scammers and pick-pockets.
The basics of a proposal for rethinking this important piece of Green Infrastructure
The main road into Canberra from the north has been the topic of much debate following the ACT Government’s announcement that it is build a light rail with the route being from Civic to the newer suburbs of Gungahlin. In the wings sits the developer lobby as this transport initiative would provide the final green light for the major intensification of the commercial and residential buildings along the full length of Northbourne Ave
There has been a bit of noise of late around the proposals that the ACT Government is to introduce a light rail system into Canberra. In the first instance the rail will connect the inner north and the newer northern suburbs through to Civic, the main CBD area.
The light rail should have been there at least 20 years ago. It will be an interesting problem to make it viable now. Some form of transit system is required but so much of the infrastructure around it will need to be also altered. The city was built for cars. Many issues to be worked through. For instance ….
Casual roaming of the neighbourhood can reveal some of the oddities of local urbanity.
First a background story. Going back several decades, there used to be tradition in Canberra that each winter the residents would rake their leaves in the street gutter and then set fire to them. The neighbourhoods were full of smoke from these frequent local burnings. Eventually the local government put a stop to this local tradition.
The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has a wonderful sculpture garden that very few people wander about in. Because of the architect’s design, in that the garden is not naturally connected to the spaces inside, it means that unless they know about the sculpture garden, most visitors to exhibitions do not even see the gardens, let alone the sculptures. A very similarly designed sculpture garden, with many of the same features, including gum trees, in Pasadena is very much part of the museum visit as it allows people to wander in and out of the garden from various galleries.
The ANU has a campus that has a fantastic collection of sculpture throughout the whole campus. Very few people take the time to enjoy the huge range of artworks. The campus is a great place to take long walks, to take in the artworks as well as to enjoy the very pleasant ambience of the well looked after campus gardens and landscaped works.
Today hundreds of people drove out of Canberra to a property near Tharwa to take in a temporary exhibition of Sculpture in the Park. So yes, people are interested in wandering amongst sculpture in a park. And these were local artists/sculptors, so there was that very added attraction. It was a beautiful spring day – being about 25C.
Canberra has a population around 370,000 and consists of a seven residential districts with a total of over 110 suburbs. As with any other city, there are constant tensions about development and planning issues.
However the most publicised debates usually involve proposals to alter any part of the character of the central districts in and around the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin. As soon any agency brings forth a proposal concerning these central areas, they are greeted by the usual suspects lining up to voice their opinions. Unfortunately these voices tend to be in opposition and the local press knows exactly who to ring to gather comments for articles that dump on such proposals often before they go out to consultations.
A work in progress – reviewing the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra
The National Portrait Gallery of Australia opened in 2009 to much acclaim. This national cultural institution has become a very popular tourist destination. The gallery sits in amongst trees in the National Parliamentary Triangle alongside the National Gallery of Australia and the High Court of Australia.
While I have seen nothing but praise for the building, I beg to differ. Particularly when talking about the outside of the building and how it ‘sits in the landscape’. More on that later.
City of Trees, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 5 July – 7 October 2013
This review originally published August 2013
One lazy Saturday afternoon I took myself over to the National Library of Australia. I had read all the advertising and was very much looking forward to an exhibition on the trees of Canberra.
Any exhibition that focused on the trees of Canberra has to be something to see, something to talk about, and something that would be most embraced.
the entrance with two light boxes
In short, this one did none of those things for this reviewer. This exhibition in this prestigious national library exhibition space just left me wondering just what happened. Did the exhibition curators sign up a feel good Centenary Exhibition about one of the core features of the national capital; its fabulous trees. And then the pieces arrived and there was nothing to do but to make a good show of it. In this case it has been well laid out with all the usual fine aesthetics of good curatorship. But the content is just not there.
Civic was established to be the main metropolitan centre of Canberra. Back in the 1970s and into the 1980s this was the heart of Canberra and had developed its own culture. People would go there to be seen, to meet and to shop. The outer centres were yet to offer the same level of amenity.
The Canberra Centre was a small mall. So most of action was out in the open areas, Petrie Plaza and Garema Place and the spaces along City Walk.
I was having a quiet moment with friends at the Dickson shops last Friday, when we noticed that we were being circled by three senior ACT Planning officials. We recognised two of them as senior planners, the other was the legal combatant from the famous Marsden Steer battle (link to follow).
We remembered well this guy’s vicious treatment of the residents who were appealing the planning decisions. His way of dealing with the case was best summed up by another resident (a mother) who said, ” now I know where those playground bullies end up!”
The debate in Canberra, particularly around my own suburb of Dickson, of the future of infill and the need to redevelop our suburbs has now focussed on the dire need to change the way this territory does the business of planning and development. The Canberra community is not fighting to halt development, but is wishing to influence the planning and development decisions to ensure that development delivers on the needs of present and future generations, the young and the elderly, and need to address the full range of human and environmental issues – being housing, health, ecology, transport – and you know the rest. Continue reading Canberra Urbanity→