The city design competion was won by an American, Walter Burley Griffin, whose plan featured a central lake, concentric road systems surrounding smaller hilltops, and long avenues giving vistas between major points of interest. Although Griffin's plan was not followed exactly, and Canberra has long since outgrown the original area, it remains the only fully planned city in Australia and one of the few in the world. It is now proof, if any was needed, of the merits of good planning.
In the illustration, drawn by Burley Griffin's wife, the light area at right top is Mt Ainslie.
A funny thing happened on our...
A funny thing happened on our way from Melbourne to Sydney, we stopped in Canberra. This is a city that only exists because of the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. They couldn’t come to a decision about where to put the nation’s capital and neither of the big two was giving any concessions so they basically went right in the middle of them and build a capital where nothing much else was. And it shows. It seems the most soulless place on earth. The word is that the politicians mostly live in either Sydney or Melbourne and just go down for their workweeks, heading back to civilization on weekends. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a must see place in Australia, but if you go, check out the Parliament Building for some truly garish architecture! We got off the bus and discovered a very different place than we had imagined. This was not a thriving capital city ala Washington DC, but a virtual ghost town. No traffic jams, in fact very few cars period and stranger yet, even less pedestrians. At times, it seemed that we were the only ones walking around. We also discovered that things were fairly well spread out and took forever to get from one place to the next, especially on a day trip.
Where is the Soul?
Discussions about love and hate in Canberra ;-)
I had an interesting discussion with George (VT member tiabunna) who did not like me calling Canberra a boring place.
Probably the way I use the word "boring" sometimes does not always make a hundred per cent clear what I mean, and sometimes leads people who read it to the conclusion Canberra would be a city with no interesting places of interest...
This is not what I mean with "boring".
Of course, a city with such delights as all those fantastic museums, the lake, and this great hinterland cannot be really boring to the bone. Boring for me was the lack of atmosphere in the city centre. Apart from this little square where you could sit outside for dinner there was nothing to observe. You know, watching people, gossiping about them, street musicians, little markets, the feeling of easy living.
There is a big discrepancy between locals and visitors appreciating a place. Whereas locals love the quiet life and the wide spaces, visitors want to feel something and not just hurry from museum to museum. And this feeling has nothing to do with nightlife, parties etc. Just get a feeling for how people live and act in a certain place.
If I compare Canberra to Christchurch (New Zealand) which has about the same size and is also a very widespread city... I live outside, in lazy Lyttelton, and often I go to the city centre, take a seat on a bench on Cathedral Square, and just watch people passing, or sit in the Rose Garden of the Botanic Garden, read a book and relax, and watch people and birds. I would not know where to do this in Canberra.
A problem in Canberra might be that the distances between visitor attractions are rather large, and you do not just stroll from A to B but drive. This already takes "life" from the streets.
If I lived there I would appreciate the calm and the space - but I think there are other places that have both.
George also mentioned that some of the buildings which I found horrible were award-winning architecture.
I know, this is a global problem. And of course, the juries always consist of other architects who justify their own horrors by awarding colleagues who have committed similar crimes ;-) I mistook one of those buildings for a parking building... It is a pity that most of Canberra was built in the same wrong era. (BTW Also Christchurch has some few such concrete blocks but there they were built this way because of the lack of money, not because it was the architectural fashion of the day.)
Here I am shivering on the...
Here I am shivering on the balcony of the hotel overlooking the [less than Olympic] ski slopes at Thredbo in "the snowies".
Here's a link to more information about this area: http://www.penderlea.com.au/Summer/activities.html
For people who like to shop...
For people who like to shop in a shopping Mall (and that's not me) I recommend the Canberra Centre (see picture) in Bunda Street. This glamorous shopping mall has the major department stores (David Jones and Grace Bros), fashion shops, from the upper market to the 'more dash than cash' variety, a food court, bookstores, speciality shops and a number of souvenir-style shops. Its open 7 days a week, and there's ample undercover car parking in the multi-level car park next door. Forget the A$ 4 you pay in Sydney - here it's a paltry 40 cents for your first hour! A must for the ladies while I am going for a walk and a drink ;-)