IGPA Canberra Conversations: The impact of planning decisions on Canberra’s heritage values and urban form

Lake Burley Griffin Guardians - September 6, 2018

This event: Monday 10 September 2018 at 6:00pm – 8.00pmAlbert Hall, 100 Commonwealth Ave, Yarralumla ACT 2601. Catering of snacks available at 5.30pm

More information is at: https://www.governanceinstitute.edu.au/events/canberra-conversation-lecture-series/557/the-impact-of-planning-decisions-on-canberras-heritage-values-and-urban-form.

Our wonderful lake is set to be butchered by the West Basin development. Note it is no longer City to the Lake. It appears the connecting component to the city that was the original basis for the development, has been dropped and now it is to be just an estate of apartments and some businesses. The government’s visionless and damaging proposal diminishes the size of the lakebed, damages the urban form of the lake, destroys the lake edge environment, obstructs vistas to the ranges and alienates the public from lake access.

The meeting will facilitate a Q&A as well as a Resolutions segment.

The Following is an article about Lake Burley Griffin and West Basin

By Professor Ken Taylor, Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, The Australian National University.

Lake Burley Griffin (LBG) is often referred to as the jewel in the crown of Canberra’s setting. If one thinks of the iconographic imagery this evinces of a precious stone and a crown then surely it means seeing the stone in the context of its setting. The stone is enhanced by its setting and the setting is enhanced by the stone: a synergy between the two where their combined effect is greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Relating this analogy to LBG anticipates the acceptance that the landscape open space setting around the water body is critical to the idea of the lake as Canberra’s jewel. Equally significant in the city’s sense of place as the city in the landscape is the lake’s large scale spatial and visual relationship to the defining hills and ridges, the National Capital Open Space System (NCOSS). Views across the lake to the hills and ridges and views back to the lake are quintessential elements in the city’s dramatically exquisite stage-like setting: Judith Wright’s ‘tawny basin in the ring of hills’. The visual sweep of green space effortlessly continuing the surface plane of the water then transcends the distances of Canberra’s landscape views, linking with surrounding landscape components. It is all rather akin to the related parts of an elegant symphony.

The concept of public parkland around the lake also maintains intellectually and physically the democratic ideals on which the very foundational vision of a capital for the nation was based. It was to be a city that would be the Pride of Time and a world leader in city planning. This lofty idealism was transferred to the Canberra site once it was chosen.

Notable in this connection is that one would assume that NCA’s ‘Griffin Legacy’ would denote that it follows, at least on major items, Griffin’s spatial planning and indicative built form as shown on the ‘Final Plan by Walter Burley Griffin 1918.’ As far as West Basin is concerned this is not the case. Griffin had continuous public parkland around the lake and dispersed buildings separated by green space.  The development will destroy Griffin’s planned parkland ideal. An ideal maintained until now. The development will blight the lake’s parkland, the city’s urban form, its city in the landscape ethos, Commonwealth Avenue and vistas from City Hill to the mountains beyond.

By virtue of the NCA plan the ACT Government has been able grab the land ready for sale to developers. This will deprive Canberrans and visitors to the national capital of a significant vista across the city. West Basin development will destroy the integrity of the West Basin landscape. The buildings will block views across the lake to the NCOSS which is the backbone of the plan of the city. Opportunity for the public to enjoy the views will be replaced by views being the private domain of the people who live in the apartments: hardly the essence of democratic open space. No doubt there will be high-rise apartment blocks in the mix. The sort of buildings Griffin abhorred: he called them buildings on end. A compromise could be accommodated as at West Lake, Hangzhou, China where scattered low rise built development is incorporated into extensive lakeside parkland where views across the lake are not compromised.

In a city like Canberra with its distinctive landscape setting we have a right to expect our governments through their agencies to take into account in planning schemes views and vista through, out of, and into the city as new development is considered. It happens in some other cities around the world where, like Edinburgh a study was commissioned to map important vistas and views. Some years ago Vancouver undertook a similar study. What is happening to our city?