|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Nominated place|
|Place File No||8/01/000/0134|
|Nominator's Summary Statement of Significance|
|Canberra is of outstanding significance for the people of Australia because it was planned and constructed to symbolise, and function as, the epicentre of Australian democracy.
Canberra is the city created by Federation (when six Australian colonies became States within a Commonwealth) to be the seat of government for the nation.
It is the place where the Parliament of Australia meets, where Commonwealth legislation is debated and promulgated, and where the Prime Minister and Governor-General reside; and where, through the open doors of Parliament House, the people can witness democracy in action.
Canberra hosts many of the nation's most significant social, cultural institutions and commemorative events, for example Australia day, Anzac day, the apology to the Stolen generations, and for public rallies and protests.
Canberra's outstanding significance has been endorsed and publicised by a number of Australian and international (professional) experts over the last one hundred years. A selection of their comments is included in Attachment A, Part 1.
While certain parts of Canberra are already rightly on the National Heritage List (the Old Parliament House and curtilage; the High Court-National Gallery precinct; the Australian War Memorial and the memorial parade; the Australian Academy of Science building; and parts of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves, including Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and the Brindabellla National Park), its overall integrity as a pre-eminent capital `city in the landscape' can only be effectively measured by examining the three distinct legacies left by the various planning layers that have accumulated over time, and the distinct stages of Parliamentary commitment that have occurred over the past one hundred years.
The first legacy period (1890-1921) must itself be divided into two periods: the pre-Griffin period from 1890 to 1912, the year of the announcement of the winners of the International Design Competition for Canberra, and the Griffin period from 1913 to 1921. The pre-Griffin period includes: the Constitutional Convention debates in the 1890s about the need for a national capital for a new nation; the `Battle of the Sites', the prolonged and exhaustive search for the best and most inspiring site for the new capital; the Charles Scrivener survey of the Canberra site, which produced the topographic map forwarded to all the entrants in the design competition; and the intense controversy surrounding the competition itself (see Reps, 1997). These are the decades when the practical and philosophical groundwork was laid for the planning, design and implementation for a model city which Walter Burley Griffin famously suggested would be `an ideal city' for a nation of `bold democrats'. A selection of responses from key people are cited in Attachment A, Part 2.
The Griffin period, from 1913 to 1921, entails those years when Walter Burley Griffin was employed by the Commonwealth as the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. Special attention is also to be given to Marion Mahoney Griffin, Griffin's professional partner and wife, who though not officially registered with the winning entry, is widely believed to be a contributor to both her husband's success and the quality of the final design. This period is best represented by Griffin's plan of 1918, the last Plan he signed and approved. Specific design aspects of Griffin's legacy include the land and water axes, parts of Lake Burley Griffin, the structure of main avenues and some of the road patterns in the inner areas, and the masterly integration of topography and landscape into the overall plan. Examples include ANZAC Parade, Commonwealth and Kings Avenues, and Constitution Avenue.
The second legacy comprises the work carried out, from 1921 to 1949, by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, the Federal Capital Commission and the National Capital Planning and Development Committee - including the suburban areas of inner Canberra with their treed streetscapes, as well as some individual elements of the built fabric such as Old Parliament House, East and West Blocks, the Administration Building, the Australian War Memorial, the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings, School of Anatomy, Hotel Acton and Beauchamp House. This period is characterised by the 1925 gazetted Plan of Layout, derived from the 1918 Griffin plan. While Griffin's name and reputation fell from favour in the inter-war period (see Headon 2003), the Plan of Layout remained the framework for Canberra's development for some fifty to sixty years. Gazettal of the Plan of Layout meant that any variations to the plan had to be scrutinised by a Joint Committee of both houses of Parliament, and this remained the case from 1925 through to the late 1980s, when the ACT was granted self-government.
The third legacy spans the period from 1950 to 1988 - a legacy with its firm foundations in the monumental Report from the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into and Report upon the Development of Canberra (1955). The Senate Select Committee asserted the need to re-commit to the design of Griffin-- `The more one studies Griffin's plan and his explanatory statements, the more obvious it is that departures from his main principles should not be lightly countenanced' - and it unequivocally endorsed the sentiments of the President of the Australian Planning Institute, who described the Griffin's scheme as `a grand plan'.
In response to the Senate Report, the Australian Government established the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) in 1957-8. This was the Menzies/Holford/NCDC era. Prominent British planner, Sir William Holford, was commissioned by the Commonwealth in 1957 to report on Canberra's development. His report recommended that the `Garden City' concept be retained, that an improved traffic system needed to be developed, and reinforced the idea that Canberra should be developed as a cultural centre (Holford1958). The Commonwealth tasked the NCDC to report on Holford's report. The period encompassed: the completion in 1963 of Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding parklands; the design and development of the three discrete new towns of Woden-Weston Creek, Belconnen and Tuggeranong (and Gungahlin `conceptually' in the NCDC's metropolitan plans-- its construction did not commence until after the NCDC was abolished); the network of open spaces between the towns known as the National Capital Open Space System (Seddon 1977; & National Capital Plan 8. National Capital Open Space System); the peripheral road hierarchy and parkway network; and the major government, cultural and administrative facilities in the Parliamentary Zone, not the least of which is Parliament House itself. Given the many decades of delay that Canberra had already experienced, Prime Minister Robert Menzies recognised the need to ensure that the NCDC reported to the Parliament and operated within the span of his own authority (Troy 1993:8). In his first Prime Ministership (1939-41) Menzies was someone who, by his own admission, hated Canberra. In his second Prime Ministership, however, he became an unashamed `apostle' and advocate for the city, and is reported as saying that "Canberra is my pride and joy ....it will continue beyond question" (The Canberra Times 1989).
In October 1992, a Commonwealth Parliamentary 'Joint Committee on the National Capital', in a report titled: 'Our Bush Capital - Protecting and Managing the National Capital's Open Spaces' recommended that:
'The Commonwealth and ACT governments explore the possibility that the parts of Canberra designed by Walter and Marion Burley Griffin (sic) and the surrounding hills and open spaces be included in the indicative list of possible Australian World Heritage Sites.'
The significant features of Canberra's fabric thus include:
- the National Triangle and Parliamentary Zone, with the Land Axis vista stretching between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial against the backdrop of Mount Ainslie;
- Lake Burley Griffin and its landscaped foreshores;
- the main approach roads and grand tree-lined avenues identified in Griffin's plan;
- The National Capital Open Space System including Hills, Rivers and Buffer Spaces, the River Corridors, and the Mountains and Bushlands; forming a continuum of natural and park-like settings, preserving a visual and symbolic backdrop for the National Capital, reinforcing the natural, cultural, scenic and recreational values of the ACT (National Capital Plan: 8. National Capital Open Space System Principles and Policies).
- The broad structure principle of new towns (Woden/Weston, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin) each with its own town centre and self contained services, as proposed in the 1984 Metropolitan Plan; preserving the open character of the city by limiting the extent of the existing districts and forming new settlements in the valleys between the main hills; extending the National Capital Open Space System as a visual backdrop and landscape setting for the National Capital, reinforcing the natural, cultural, scenic and recreational values of the ACT (refer National Capital Plan: 8. National Capital Open Space System Principles and Policies).
- Extant elements of the 1918 Griffin Plan and the 1925 Gazetted Plan which have set the framework for Central Canberra, including the avenues, open spaces, structures, axial lines and subdivision geometries (many of which are not covered by the National Capital Plan);
- Early garden suburbs of the FCAC and FCC, and other prototypical suburbs in Central Canberra by subsequent planning agencies up to 1984;
- The broad scale metropolitan structure (beyond Central Canberra) based on the principle of discrete and decentralised new towns (Woden/Weston, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin) each with its own town centre and relatively self-contained services, as proposed in the 1984 Metropolitan Plan; with particular emphasis on preserving the open character of the city by limiting the extent of the existing districts and forming new settlements in the valleys between the main hills; extending the National Capital Open Space System as a visual backdrop and landscape setting for the National Capital;
- The building height restrictions in Central Canberra, limiting building heights to below the base of the flag pole on Parliament House at the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle, to preserve the primacy of the major public buildings and a dominant landscape horizon, and giving Canberra a distinct identity as a horizontal city subservient to the landscape;
- The peripheral parkways dispersing the peak traffic around the new towns, in scenic landscape corridors, rather than through the urban neighbourhoods; and
- The river corridors and landscape views of the Brindabellas that form the backdrop - or in Griffin's words, the `amphitheatre' -- to the city when viewed from the hill tops in the National Capital Open Space System around Central Canberra.
|Official Values Not Available|
Canberra was purpose-built as the capital for the newly
established nation and is Australia’s
only comprehensively planned city. It is
one of only a very few of the world’s capital cities designated as such before
they were created. Walter Burley
Griffin’s plan for the national capital was chosen through an international
worldwide design competition and, as anticipated at the time, the city has
since grown in relation to Australia’s
population as a whole. |
Canberra’s unique design and planning over the past one hundred years embodies many of the ideas and messages incorporated in the theme for 2009. Canberra can be described as:
Canberra’s planning history is rich,
complex and, above all, nationally and internationally significant. The first plan for 'the capital of an
Australian union' was proposed as early as 1829, by English landscape designer,
John Claudius Loudon. Recognising the opportunity that the relatively blank
slate of the colonies offered for producing 'ideal' plans, Loudon's plan
foreshadowed practically all the tenets of Ebenezer Howard's Garden City
concept that came to be included in Canberra - including limiting urban growth
by green belts, combining 'the best of town & country', central zones for
government and cultural buildings (civic centres) in landscaped parks, radial
boulevards as rapid transit corridors, public ownership of land to control
settlement in the public interest – thus placing Canberra in the international
narrative of town planning progress as a culminating chapter.|
In brief, it was Australia’s particular good fortune to become a nation at a critical junction in the history of global planning: the end of the nineteenth century when the ‘science’ (and profession) of town planning was beginning to emerge at last as the direct result of—and reaction to—too many centuries of untrammelled urban growth across the globe. ‘Garden City’ and ‘City Beautiful’ concepts captured the attention of a generation of Australian town planners with a new capital city design in mind. The design professionals who organised the historic ‘Congress of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors’, and who intentionally gathered in Melbourne at precisely the same moment as the opening of the first Australian Parliament (May 1901), were determined to exert an influence on the nation’s future capital. They were not prepared to leave such an important issue as this up to the politicians alone. Thus, Canberra’s ‘Battle of the Sites’ and early design history inevitably engaged with ‘world’s best practice’ design ideas. These ideas soon gained global publicity through the vehicle of the first international planning conference, held in London in October1910 and attended by the world’s most important planners of the era—among them, Daniel Burnham, Ebenezer Howard, Raymond Unwin and Australia’s leading planning practitioner, (Sir) John Sulman. Just six months after this conference, the international design competition for Canberra was announced (Reps 1997:9). The timing was perfect.
As earlier discussed, Canberra’s planning and development would eventually evolve in three major periods and involve six major plans. Each has made a significant contribution to Canberra’s planning history, to entrenching some of Griffin’s visionary ideals. In the Griffin years and for decades to come, there were no town planning ministries in any of the States. When they were created, they ranked very low in the political hierarchy with no authority or capacity to co-ordinate the provision of infrastructure or services for urban development (Troy 1993:3). The Royal Australian Planning Institute was finally established as a national institute at a first Congress-- in Canberra’s famed Albert Hall, in August 1951 (Norman 1993:5). It is only against this idiosyncratic political, social and cultural background that Canberra’s national planning heritage can be properly evaluated (see Headon 2003).
Canberra’s planned fabric is widely recognised. Planners, architects and landscape architects from around the world come to the city to study how a new nation planned and developed its national capital. Summing up a strongly endorsed opinion abroad, renowned American architecture historian Professor John Reps stated in 1997that Canberra deserves ‘recognition and protection as one of the treasures, not only of Australia, but of the entire urban world’. Closer to home, Parliament House’s design architect, Romaldo Giurgola, put the case with eloquent simplicity and insight: ‘Canberra remains among the nation’s greatest achievements’.
|Condition and Integrity|
physical fabric of Canberra’s
planning history—expressed through the three legacies cited in Question 5-- are
in sound condition. Significant features
of the fabric include:|
It should be noted that this nomination recognises a series of overlapping 'legacies' of different planning eras that have shaped Canberra, some reinforcing earlier plans, others in contradiction. While highly valued elements and principles of original planning survive on a broad scale, some have been, and will continue to be, altered in detail over time. This is consistent with the fact that Canberra is a living city and the principle that a good town planning framework stands the test of time, protecting the important features of an overarching framework, while allowing details to adapt to evolving needs and technologies.
The curtilage of this
nomination is derived from the National Capital Development Commission’s 1984
Metropolitan Policy Plan/Development Plan as amended up to the end of 1988
and incorporated in the National Capital Plan at the time of self-government
for the Territory. It extends to the
whole of Metropolitan Canberra but with particular focus on the following
elements (for clarity, National Capital Plan terminology is used to describe
§ Lake Burley Griffin and its landscaped foreshores;
§ the Main Avenues and Approach Routes;
§ Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces (extending the National Capital Open Space System as a visual backdrop and landscape setting for the National Capital, and defining discrete, decentralised new towns (Woden/Weston, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin) as proposed in the 1984 Metropolitan Plan) each with its own town centre and preserving the open character of the city by limiting the extent of the existing towns and forming new settlements in the valleys between the main hills and forming a visual backdrop and landscape setting for the National Capital.
The following addendum is made to assist with the interpretation of the two maps provided.
The first map of the whole of the ACT shows the following inclusions:
The second map showing the detailed map of Canberra and the immediate environs shows the following inclusions:
1. Within the built environment of Central Canberra: all land outside the public domain that is not within the Designated Areas as defined in the National Capital Plan – i.e. residential and commercial land, buildings and structures outside the avenues, streets, parklands, parkways, key vistas and major public buildings comprising the historic layout of the city. Exceptions include the principles of building height control, setbacks, and no-front-fences which preserve the essential character of Canberra as a city in the landscape; and the early garden suburbs where architectural fabric and streetscapes (i.e. the ‘private realm’) are important to heritage significance (such as those entered on the ACT heritage list as Canberra’s Early Garden City Planned Precincts in Ainslie, Braddon, Reid, Kingston, Barton, Griffith and Forrest).
2. In the New Towns: all the urban areas including buildings, roads, and open spaces which are not part of the continuum of the National Capital Open Space System comprising the Inner Hills Ridges and Buffer Spaces.
3. In the Australian Alps National Parks, the same areas excluded from the existing National Heritage Listing.
Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (Cth)
Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (Cth)
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Regulations 2003 (No.1) (Cth)
Seat of Government Act 1908 (Cth)
Seat of Government (Acceptance) Act 1909 (Cth)
Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 (Cth)
Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924 (Cth)
Books, Journals etc.
ACT Government (2005) Canberra Connect website, Accessed 9 August 2005.
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Australian Planning Institute (1955) Statement by a Committee of the Australian Planning Institute for the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra.
Bacon, Edmund (1967, rev. ed. 1974) The Design of Cities. Penguin. http://www.edbacon.com/more/store.htm
Bacon, Edmund (1968) ‘Canberra as a Statement of World Culture’, Architecture Australia, vol. 57. no. 4, August, pp 625-626.
Bourassa, Steven; Neutze, Max; Strong, Ann Louise (1994) Leasehold Policies and Land Use Planning in Canberra, Urban Research program, Working paper No. 44, Urban Research program, Australian National University, Canberra.
Brennan, Frank (1971) Canberra in Crisis, Dalton Publishing Company, Canberra.
Freestone, Robert (1989) Model Communities: The Garden City Movement in Australia, Thomas Nelson Australia, Melbourne.
Gray, John E (1999) TCG Weston (1866-1935), Horticulturist and Aboriculturist. A critical review of his contribution to the establishment of the landscape foundations of Australia’s National Capital. Thesis submitted for the Degree of Environmental Design, University of Canberra.
Griffin, W B (1912) 'Australia's Federal City Planner Tells the Story of His Design'. Building. 12 July.
Griffin, W B (1913) The Federal Capital – The Report Explanatory of the Preliminary general Plan. Commonwealth of Australia.
Griffin, Dustin (2008) The Writings of Walter Burley Griffin, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Hall, Peter (1990) Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century, Basil Blackwell, Oxford. (First Published 1988, Reprinted 1990)
Harrison, Peter (1980) Government development of a city: Canberra, Paper presented to the Sixteenth Biennial Congress of the Royal Australian Planning Institute, Canberra (unpublished).
Harrison, Peter (1995) Walter Burley Griffin, Landscape Architect, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
Headon, David (2003) The Symbolic Role of the National Capital—from Colonial Argument to 21st Century Ideals, NCA and Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Holford, W (1958) Observations on the Future Development of Canberra, ACT, Government Printer, Canberra.
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory (1987) Report on Metropolitan Canberra. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Joint Committee on the National Capital (1992) Our Bush Capital: Protecting and Managing the National Capital’s Open Spaces, Parliament House Canberra.
Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories (2004) A National Capital: A place to live, Inquiry into the role of the National Capital Authority, Parliament House Canberra. Accessed 5 August 2005, http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ncet/nca/report.htm
Kemp, D (2004) Statement of Reasons for decision under Section 324F of the EPBC Act 1999, Acting Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 12 May 2004. Accessed 5 August 2005, www.deh.gov.au
Lloyd, C and Troy, P (1981) Innovation and Reaction: The life and death of the Federal Department of Urban and Regional Development, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Macfarlane, I (2004) Statement of Reasons for decision under Section 324F of the EPBC Act 1999, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 27 April 2004. Accessed 5 August 2005, www.deh.gov.au
National Capital Authority (NCA) (1990) National Capital Plan, NCA, Canberra. Accessed August 2005 and March 2006,
National Capital Authority (NCA) (2004) The Griffin Legacy, National Capital Authority, Canberra.
National Capital Development Commission (1965) The Future Canberra, NCDC, Canberra.
National Capital Development Commission (1970) Tomorrow’s Canberra! Planning for Growth and Change, ANU Press, Canberra.
National Capital Development Commission (1984) Metropolitan Canberra, Policy Plan Development Plan, NCDC, Canberra.
National Capital Planning Authority (1990) The National Capital Plan, NCPA, Canberra.
Neutze, Max (1987) Planning and land tenure in Canberra after 60 years, Town Planning Review 58:147-164.
Neutze, Max (1988) The Canberra Leasehold System, Urban Law and Policy 9 (1988) 1-34.
Norman, Barbara (1993) Peter Firman Harrison – His contribution to urban planning in Australia, paper delivered to the Urban Research Program’s Seminar Serries, ANU, Canberra (unpublished).
Overall, (Sir) John (1995) Canberra: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Personal Memoir, The Federal Capital Press, Canberra.
Pegrum, Roger (1983) The Bush Capital, How Australia chose Canberra as its federal city, Hale and Ironmonger, Sydney.
Quick, J and Garran, R (1901) The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Reid, P (2002) Canberra Following Griffin, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
Reps, John W (1997) Canberra 1912: Plans and Planners of the Australian Capital Competition, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Stein, Justice Paul (Chair) (1995) Report into the Administration of the ACT Leasehold to the Chief Minister of the ACT Government, Board of Inquiry into the Administration of ACT Leasehold, Canberra.
Sonne, Wolfgang (1998) ‘Canberra 1912: The Representation of Democracy in the Age of Imperialism’ Conference Proceedings 8th International Planning History Conference, 15 – 18 July 1998, Sydney, pp 853 – 854.
Taylor, Ken (1992) Evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Capital for its inquiry into Protecting and Managing the National Capital’s Open Spaces, 14 April p.160, Parliament House Canberra.
Taylor, Ken (2005) Living with heritage: Canberra, City in the Landscape. Can it remain a City not like any other? Proceedings of ICOMOS 15th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium, Xi’an, China, World Publishing Corporation, Xi’an. Pp. 791-800.
The Canberra Times, Canberra: NCDC’s memorial of lasting beauty, 10 February 1989.
Seddon, George (1977) An Open Space System for Canberra, A Policy Review, NCSC, Canberra.
The Senate (1955) Report from the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into and Report upon the Development of Canberra, The Parliament of Australia, Canberra.
Troy, Pat (1993) ‘The weevils in the flour!’ or Planning and implementing the infrastructure in Australia’s capital: models of consensus and conflict, Paper delivered to an Australia Day Symposium in Berlin.
Walton, Meredith (2001) ‘20th Century Urban Heritage: Managing Change in Canberra’s Garden City planned heritage precincts’ 2001 Australia ICOMOS National Conference, Adelaide, 28 November – 1 December 2001.
Wensing, Ed (1986) Canberra’s Leasehold Tenure System: Still in Crisis, Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory for their Inquiry into the Metropolitan Plan for Canberra, unpublished.
Wensing, Ed (1992a) ‘Landlords and Land Use Controls in the ACT: Developing a new planning system’, Australian Planner, Vol 30, Number 2, July.
Wensing, Ed (1992b) Private Submission to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory Inquiry into the National Capital Open Space System, cited in the Joint Committee’s Report, Our Bush Capital: Protecting and Managing the National Capital’s Open Spaces, (1992) The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Wensing, Ed (1993) Nomination for an Occasional Award for Services to Planning for Outstanding Contributions to the Planning Profession, Planning Theory and the RAPI – (Posthumously) Peter Firman Harrison 1918 – 1990, Compiled by Ed Wensing, Canberra (unpublished).
Report Produced Fri Sep 19 15:35:44 2014