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Release Civic skyline from blandness: city planner

Views of Canberra City and Lake Burley Griffin from the roof of Customs House on Constitution Avenue.

Views of Canberra City and Lake Burley Griffin from the roof of Customs House on Constitution Avenue. Photo: Graham Tidy

Civic should be released from the blandness of uniform building heights to allow it to develop a more interesting skyline, according to a city planner.

As well, there are plaudits for the audacity of NewActon in defying the rules against brightening facades.

Canberra

Canberra Photo: Graham Tidy

"It's beyond belief they're all the same height," architect Roger Pegrum says of Civic's buildings.

"If all the buildings are the same height and they're all glass, where's the character and what's the difference?"

Mr Pegrum calls for city officials and developers to have the "guts" to design "significant" building for the centre of the national capital.

He speaks out in Forum on the future of Civic, in a debate following the damaging fire in the Sydney Building.

"[NewActon] has got artworks dripping down the sides of buildings – theoretically that shouldn't be allowed but this gives a life to the buildings," he says.

"Maybe some buildings need a fluorescent facade, maybe some buildings need a solidity and others need some transparency."

Architect Jack Kershaw believes it is time to reconsider the future of the Sydney and Melbourne buildings. He suggests the two buildings are not doing justice to their plum sites.

"I think if you ask anybody [about the buildings], they'll say, oh yes they're quite good, they're okay, but nobody will rave about the architecture," he says.

"Had Walter Burley Griffin been permitted to dso something there, I believe we would have had a much better result."

Manny Notaras, chairman of Canberra CBD Ltd, is a strong defender of the Sydney and Melbourne buildings.

"There's no danger the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings will be pulled down – our primary concern is that the buildings get restored back to what they were," he says.

Several proposals for redevelopment in Civic have been released recently – for the ageing ABC flats in Cooyong Street, for the now-closed Braddon Club and for a $170 million office development next to Veterans Park.

An updated City Plan is about to be released by the ACT Government.

The draft City Plan has a hotel sited in the current car park opposite the Melbourne Building and a City Exposition building in the car park opposite the Sydney Building, with development on the northern slopes of City Hill, including new buildings for the Supreme Court and Legislative Assembly.

More than 15,000 people who had their say when the draft was released late last year made it clear they want the centre of Canberra to be less about traffic and cars and more about walkable connections across it and to Lake Burley Griffin.

15 comments

  • I'm surprised so many people want skyscrapers - they just create cold and dark streets devoid of sunlight and in my opinion stick out in an ugly manner. I do think we need more diversity in the shape and style of the city buildings and personally I would love to see more street art on them but Canberra will probably never be that kind of city.

    Commenter
    Escritora
    Date and time
    February 28, 2014, 3:08PM
    • Canberra is way behind the time.. Sydney has harbours and beaches and they make the most of it, eg, look how vibrant and exciting Darling Harbour, the Rocks, bondi beach, Manly beach etc. There's always something going on to make people want to go there. Canberra has a few lakes, why not do more with the lakes to make people want to spend an afternoon relaxing or picnicking etc at one of the lakes? I know the lakes has some features, eg, walking tracks but that's not enough to make people want to do more than just walk bridge to bridge at Lake Burley Griffin. No wonder Canberrans get out of Canberra when there's a public holiday.

      Commenter
      Michael
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 3:47PM
    • "why not do more with the lakes to make people want to spend an afternoon relaxing or picnicking etc at one of the lakes"
      Cleaning up the toxic levels of sewage and blue-green algae might be a nice start.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 4:39PM
  • Most boring central buildings in the world, well after Sydney.

    Commenter
    asdf
    Date and time
    February 28, 2014, 3:14PM
    • When I first moved to the ACT I actually just thought the "skyline" was a suburban shopping and business district. I had no idea it was the "city centre". In my opinion it could definitely do with a few taller buildings.. and, also, you know, an injection of life an atmosphere around the sections of new acton.

      Commenter
      Urban pest
      Location
      Tuggers
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 3:16PM
      • We should definitely allow taller buildings in the city. It's ludicrous to have a height limit in the city centre, forcing expansion outwards rather than upwards.

        Commenter
        Common_Sense
        Date and time
        February 28, 2014, 3:34PM
        • I'd like to see a tower so Canberra can claim the record for the tallest tower in the world, like the CN Tower in Toronto.

          Commenter
          Head in the Clouds
          Location
          Cloud Cukooland
          Date and time
          February 28, 2014, 3:38PM
          • The plan to extend the city to the lake would do far more for vibrancy than more skyscrapers. The problem is that a lot of civic was built around the same time, and is looking very aged without any real architectural interest. Cover parks way and extend the city!

            Commenter
            Daniel
            Date and time
            February 28, 2014, 4:34PM
            • Like the rest of Canberra, the city centre is devoid of life. Throwing in a bunch of taller, equally lifeless buildings will not change that, regardless of how pretty or varying in height they may be.

              Commenter
              Markus
              Location
              Canberra
              Date and time
              February 28, 2014, 4:41PM
              • They should be knocking down the Sydney and Melbourne buildings and put something that isn't an eyesore there

                Commenter
                Lachlan
                Location
                Braddon
                Date and time
                February 28, 2014, 4:54PM

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