It's hard to imagine the Canberra landscape without the park-like nature and architecturally diverse buildings of the Australian National University.
After all, as Canberra's own footprint grew, so did the university's.
As the university celebrates its 75th anniversary, the ANU Archives is digging into its collection for three exhibitions. It kicks off with Building Australia's National University, whichhighlights the development of the campus and its links with the history of Canberra.
And what a history it has been - one filled with royal appearances, Noble Prize winners and rumours of former prime ministers spending their youth swimming in ornamental ponds.
It all started in August 1946, when the ANU was established by an act of federal parliament to address the "brain drain". The government was concerned that too many of the country's best and brightest would leave Australia to work elsewhere and thus a new federally funded university was needed to cater for postgraduates and academics.
In the lead-up to parliament's decision, The Canberra Times wrote: "Canberra is ideally situated for a national university. Apart from the tranquil atmosphere which is conducive to study, certain facilities exist for the special study of public administration, international affairs and other branches: The Australian National Library, the Australian Institute of Anatomy, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and a university college providing lectures in arts, science, commerce and law."
The discussion that would help pave the way of what the university would eventually become happened in April 1948, when some of Australia's best and brightest academics and administrators gathered at the Institute of Anatomy (a building that now houses the National Film and Sound Archive). The first campus designs were produced by architect Professor Brian Lewis and depict a university forecourt stretching down to the lake, although it was another 16 years before Lake Burley Griffin was realised.
About 250 acres to the west of the civic centre was earmarked for the university. The area had traditionally been home to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples and from the 1820s it was occupied by two pastoral properties - Acton and Springbank. The Commonwealth resumed these properties when Canberra was chosen as Australia's capital and they later became part of the ANU campus.
Construction on the university's first buildings began in 1949, with three prefabricated huts relocated to Acton from RAAF Base Cootamundra to form the basis of the university's first administration area. Construction then began on temporary laboratories for the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Department of Geophysics. These "temporary" structures, however, existed for more than 40 years, with a few surviving today, having been adapted for use as staff offices.
The John Curtin School building has had links with Nobel Prize winners from the very beginning. The design itself was developed under the guidance of Nobel Prize winner Sir Howard Florey and since its construction has attracted the best in their fields, including three more Nobel Prize winners - Professor John Eccles (1963), Professor Peter Doherty (1996) and Professor Rolf Zinkernagel (1996).
It was also the scene that housed Professor Frank Fenner's ground-breaking work on eradicating smallpox - which had plagued mankind since the time of pharaohs. Millenniums had seen the virus kill, blind and disfigure its sufferers and in the 20th century alone, saw 50 million deaths.
But in 1980, Fenner, who was one of Australia's most accomplished scientists, travelled from Canberra to Geneva where it was announced by the World Health Organization that ''the world and its peoples have won freedom from smallpox".
"I've had a number of highlights, and this is the highest one," Fenner told The Canberra Times in 1987.
Some of Canberra's earliest government administration and accommodation buildings were also incorporated into the university in the 1950s, along with the buildings that made up Canberra's first hospital.
Lennox House, which served as a professional officers' mess, was constructed between 1911 and 1927. It was a social hub and hosted Canberra's first sporting groups and first amateur theatre group, the Canberra Community Players. The first chess contest in the capital was also organised at the bachelor's quarters in the mid-1920s.
In 1913, 15 acres were relinquished to construct a hospital including isolation facilities for treating communicable diseases. Old Canberra House, which was designed in 1912 by John Smith Murdoch as a residence for the administrator of the federal capital, Colonel David Miller, later housed the ANU Staff Centre. Some of these buildings have survived and are among the oldest on campus.
In 1954 the first permanent building, University House, was opened by Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. On this occasion he said Australians should remind themselves of the part the university should play in the life of the country.
"A narrow field of work must not be allowed to give rise to a narrow outlook," he said.
"This university is also being established at a moment when the first flowering of Australian science is giving a promise of great things for the future. As well as being a seat of learning it would also be required to provide leadership in the stirring and exciting time before us,"
University House was the centre of academic social life and included spacious bedrooms with double-glazed windows to protect against cold Canberra winters, a library and a ladies drawing room where women could socialise. The final design omitted some original inclusions such as squash courts and a swimming pool.
For many years, rumour had it that PhD scholar (and future prime minister) Bob Hawke took a late-night dip in University House's ornamental pond during a conference of Anglican bishops in 1957, although the ANU archives suggest that he was only an active cheerleader for other swimmers. Nevertheless, the bishops were reportedly unimpressed.
After the amalgamation of the Canberra University College and the ANU in 1960, the growing university had an extra 138 acres in which to expand. New designs had University Avenue and Sullivans Creek as central features and focused on allowing students and staff to walk between buildings within 10 minutes. Now, with the growth of the university, you may need an e-scooter to get from one end of the campus to the other within 10 minutes.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the campus grew enormously, and many major buildings were constructed during this time. This included the Haydon-Allen Building and Lecture Theatre, which was affectionately nicknamed The Tank due to its circular design which gave the impression of a water storage tank.
Unusually, the building was named after two people - the first full-time members of the Canberra University College academic staff, Jeffrey Haydon and Leslie Allen. The Tank was the first purpose-built lecture theatre on campus. It could accommodate 172 people and included furnishings designed by Derek Wrigley.
The H.C. Coombs Building was constructed throughout most of the 1960s and early 1970s and is well-known for its distinctive hexagonal design. The original plans featured two hexagonal buildings, but a third was later added to accommodate a lecture theatre and laboratory. The building's name honours Herbert Cole "Nugget" Coombs, a renowned economist and public servant who also served as ANU chancellor from 1968 to 1976.
The first permanent library on the Acton Campus opened in 1963, but in fact, the first ANU library wasn't even located in Canberra. When the ANU library was established in 1948, the Acton campus hadn't yet been developed, so the ANU established a library in borrowed accommodation at the University of Melbourne.
It wasn't until December 1950 that the library moved to Canberra, with the 40,000-volume collection housed in the former Canberra Community Hospital buildings. It soon became clear that these buildings weren't fit for purpose and the university planned two new purpose-built libraries. One library would be dedicated to postgraduates and research (R.G. Menzies Library) and the other would be for undergraduates, housing a limited collection of books, but with plenty of space for readers (General Studies Library, later J.B. Chifley Library).
On March 13, 1963, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the R.G. Menzies Library at a grand ceremony attended by many dignitaries including the Duke of Edinburgh, ANU chancellor Sir John Cockcroft, ANU vice-chancellor Sir Leonard Huxley and then-prime minister Robert Menzies, after whom the building was named.
Other significant buildings constructed during the 1960s and 1970s included the College of Law precinct; the original ANU Union Building (now the site of the newly completed Research School of Social Sciences Building); Union Court; the chancellery buildings; much of the Kingsley Arts and Economics Precinct and Daley Science Precinct and many of the university's student residences. ANU also established a second observatory, Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales.
Most recently, the Acton campus has undergone a huge transformation with the development of the Kambri Precinct. Kambri encompasses the area around the former Union Court Precinct and enhances cultural, social, teaching and learning experiences through the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, Di Riddell Student Centre, Fenner Hall residential hall, cultural centre, health and wellbeing centre, retail and food outlets, and an amphitheatre and walkways along Sullivans Creek. The name Kambri was gifted by local Aboriginal groups. It was chosen to reflect the key function of the space and means meeting place.
- The history and development of the Acton campus are explored in the ANU Archives' exhibition Building Australia's National University, on display in the Menzies Library until July 1.