Happy Canberra Day everyone!

Today, is Canberra Day.

I must admit that discovering this about 20 seconds after booking my flights (meaning that 15 potential archive visits had dropped to 14) was not such a happy occasion.

However, having spent the day wandering around Canberra, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery (more on this later), Lake Burley Griffin (more on this later), finding good coffee, and finally getting an Australian telephone number I’m actually getting into the spirit of things (even if I’m not going to the Canberra Day festival thing and missing out on four different stages of local house and rave – obviously I’m distraught).

To go back to the whole “Canberra is a planned town” thing that I mentioned last time seems appropriate on the day Canberrans (actual term) celebrate their Canberranship (made up term).

Ideas for a national capital started with debates over the Federation of Australia in the late C19th, and after finally deciding where it should be they put out a tender for the design. After many years of decisions they settled for one by a Walter Burley Griffin heavily influenced by the “garden city” movement.

The site of Canberra has been inhabited consistently for about 20,000 years (the earliest finds are disputed). But in that special way Imperialist designers had, the site was initially considered in the following way:

Canberra is certainly green. I know that coming from Manchester pretty much anywhere is green, but compared to London or Paris, it’s a step above. They started building Canberra in 1913, the Provisional Parliament House was built in 1927, and a small amount of it was built before WW2. The problems of trying to build a planned city are numerous and dull (largely involving planning battles), but were only exacerbated by two world wars and one great depression. One excellent thing about this is that the trees were amongst the first things to go in, so they’re now all fully mature.
The lake, named after the city’s designer, and the central point of the whole design wasn’t actually finished until 1963.

The whole thing has changed very little from the original plans.The whole city is built around views of Parliament House, and the two hills to either side (Wikipedia says they’re mountains, and they’re called mountains, but I really doubt they’re tall enough), Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie. I will at some point be walking up Black Mountain to take a photo of some lovely concrete up there, so I’ll let you know when I’m back whether I still doubt it’s a mountain.

I really like Canberra, and although some of the buildings fit with what those who know me understand as my “taste” in architecture… some of them are genuinely very nice to look at… (for something other people might consider nice see the previous post). The reason I took this photo is, apart from the weather, this could easily be Welwyn Garden City, or perhaps Stevenage, and I like it. You can’t really see, but the columns on the building opposite have these little pearlescent tiles in, well, I suppose a fair explanation of the colour would be “goldish beige”.


Anyway, that’s probably enough from me – I’m off to the pub!

Posted by Stuart


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