Urban Space Design in Canberra


Here in Canberra there is a trend for larger urban space jobs for the government project managers to look elsewhere for the designers and consultants. As a result the city has had many design solutions that have not quite worked. We can do a lot better!

I can name several that I have serious doubts about being successful.

There’s the newly introduced shared space (shareway) along Bunda Street Civic — the streetscape along Childers Street West Civic — and the design for Commonwealth Place down by the lake in front of Parliament.

And now the big one. Despite its popularity and amazing amount of marketing to tourists, I suggest that while the idea for a National Arboretum was a good concept and appropriate for the time and place (just after the devastating bush fires), I am very aware of a consensus that the final winning design was seen more as elaborate pattern making.


To be positive, work on the National Arboretum site over the next twenty years or so will see many expensive and necessary adjustments made and new ideas introduced and integrated into the patterns of trees across this vast site to ultimately deliver something worthwhile. I suggest that many more walking and cycling paths, picnic spots plus an extensive sculpture program would be a good start.

In all these cases the public has not been served well by the bureaucracies involved within the ACT Government.

I blame the processes by which the design consultant are selected and therefore the expertise of the ACT Government’s own procurement and design selection processes.

I say again. We can do a lot better.


Paul Costigan


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