Wow, the ratings were good, the praise was lush. Margaret Pomeranz gave it four and a half stars and gushed in her praise of the movie. The movie house, one of the Palace cinema chain, was nearby, only about two blocks away as it turned out, so off we went.
What we didn’t expect was how we wouldn’t be able to stop blabbing about the amazing precinct we were about to step into and how quickly forgettable the dull movie was. Indeed, New Acton is definitely one of the must-see architectural delights in Australia.
We accessed it from our carpark beside Lake Burley Griffin, crossing over one of Canberra’s busiest multi-lane roads via a raised footbridge that gives you just an inkling that something special might be just on the other side of the freeway as you glimpse and apartment block that juts out before you while further down was a building that maybe was different.
As we descended I couldn’t help but notice a sculpted rusting waterfall at the base of the jutting out building and, on the footpath before it, a sculpture of an unsightly obese man. It was about as far from Venus de Milo as you could imagine but nonetheless attention getting.
They were set right in front of a busy cafe; so busy that they had placed crocheted throw rugs on the concrete outside so patrons in the ever ongoing queue could rest their weary posteriors beside one of the, what turned out to be, numerous vegetable plots scattered around the whole block.
Our interest aroused we turned the first corner and beheld some magnificent eagle statues in front of us and, on high, attached to the jutting-out apartments, a strip of glass, dazzling purple in the afternoon sun, while before us, a lovely patterned window set in a rust coloured building enticed you to the pilates classes. I’d never thought of the rust colour as being particularly attractive before until now. Suddenly it was everywhere and looked good.
We moved on, another indescribable work that looked like corrugated iron forming a cone appeared while on a nearby wall a naked girl bathing in a flower encrusted bath gazed downward with a deep meaningful pose. Other sculptures loomed, some subtle, some brazen, all interesting, especially the gaudy abstract one that invited you to paste your latest arts advertising all over it.
It was almost in front of an amazing hotel, the Diamant. To see inside and get the full story, check out http://www.newacton.com.au/stay.
Meanwhile we were getting close to the theatre, even though we weren’t aware of it. We’d rocked up to the Nishi building, a new apartment block that I’d seen from the bridge. Up close, the more you looked at it, the more intriguing it became. One side was ragged whilst the other seemed to have ordered slats of wood, rows upon rows of them with planter boxes scattered at random with the idea that they would climb the rungs above. Just how someone would service them was a mystery to me. Further down there was this massive tree root made from recycled rubber that dangled near the entrance, only we didn’t know it was the entrance, so obscured by the architecture was it.
Eventually we walked in and still weren’t sure we’d found it, so understated was it. Once we got our tickets we discovered this wonderful intimate theatre where you can sip tea, coffee or wine while you watch the movie. How many other cinemas in Australia can you do that!
The movie, Stories People Tell, left us wondering what drugs Margaret must have taken before she watched it. How on earth it gets such an inflated figure was beyond both of us but how grateful we were that the experience had led us to experience Nishi, a building to behold. Apparently most buildings rate 2 ½ on some scale for energy saving; this one rates 8!
Even the rectangular planter boxes mounted around hanging bike racks looked good behind the tree with its sole lemon ready for picking and the graffiti was eye-catching to say the least.
On the way home we noted trees planted inside metre high stacks of used newspapers and more community gardens with an array of fresh veg, especially the peas. We know this because we ate some, chomping our way back over the bridge and wondering why other cities can’t have places like New Acton.
Canberra, boring? Maybe you should visit some time and see Siev X Memorial, the church that once was a train station, the Glassworks (rated best facility of its kind in the world), the architecture of the High Court and a myriad of other things; then, if you’re still bored, you probably should spend the rest of your life in your armchair.
I chanced my arm, so to speak, and walked up the ramp to one of the courts. The vastness of the building almost overwhelms you.
The attendants are all dressed in black and white in keeping with traditions of attire. You are not allowed to take anything in basically, other than yourself.
Fondest memory: Brave me. I ventured inside one of the court rooms. Five learned (I assume they were anyway) men sat in judgement. Behind them sat younger persons interested in the judiciary.
Facing them were about 7 barristers and their assistants.
The height of the ceiling borders on astronomic. I have no idea of its relevance but it's impressive.
You have to stay there for at least 10 minutes, or so you are told at the door. You also have to bow as you walk in. Should you fail to do either of these things I have no idea what the penalty might be.
Still, I did recall thinking how wonderful it was that we could see our law at work.
What was it like? For me, it bordered on stupifyingly boring but that might have had something to do with the barrister whose speech included liberal sprinklings of "um" and "ah" to the point where I felt like offering him a course in speech therapy.
Clearly, a career on the stage was not something he should ever aspire to.
However, his knowledge (and the judges) of the sections, sub-sections and further sub-sections of seemingly trivial points of law seemed endless. To myself, it seemed that the 15 minutes I was in there could have been condensed into about one. So much irrelevant talk and reference to previous cases, some of which the judges deemed irrelevant.
The High Court building is one of Australia's National Buildings.
The building was designed by the architectural firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs Pty Ltd, who were the winners of a national architectural competition held in 1972 and 1973.
It was completed in 1980 at a total cost of $46.5 million. It was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 May 1980.
The forecourt and main entrance of the building are approached via a long, paved ceremonial ramp underneath which is a carpark, warehouse and machinery rooms. A so-called waterfall, more a series of fountains, designed by Robert Woodward and constructed of South Australian speckled granite, runs the full length of one side of the ramp.
The 40-metre tall building is essentially one of concrete and glass comprising a number of major functional elements, namely a large public hall, three courtrooms, an administrative wing, and Justices chambers. As you enter your eyes are guided upwards by the layout as the severe supporting pillars spread into the honeycombed ceiling that has an aura all its own.
Most of the external and internal walls created by the 18,400 cubic metres of concrete used in the construction have been subjected to a process known as "bush hammering", carried out with a percussion instrument, which has flaked the surface and exposed the aggregate within the concrete.
The glazed areas total some 4,000 square metres and these are mainly on the northern and southern faces of the building. The use of steel frame supports for the glazed areas has meant that generous expansion allowances have had to be provided to cope with Canberra's relatively wide temperature range. A system was devised so that the glass in the walls can "creep" up or down according to the temperature changes and any movement in the concrete structure.
This is a standout on the northern side of the lake, right next to one of the bridges. There's a walkway (here lit up on the left) that takes you out to the bells and a delightful, if small island behind it.
A gift from the British government on Canberra's 50th anniversary, the Carillion houses 53 bronze bells and is part of the scenic backdrop to Lake Burley Griffin.
Fondest memory: Opening Hours: Spring Weekdays 12.45 - 1.30 pm Weekends 2.45 - 3.30 pm Public Holidays 2.45 - 3.30 pm Summer Weekdays 12.45 - 1.30 pm Weekends 2.45 - 3.30 pm Public Holidays 2.45 - 3.30 pm Thursday Twilight 5.45 - 6.30 pm Autumn Weekdays 12.45 - 1.30 pm Weekends 2.45 - 3.30 pm Public Holidays 2.45 - 3.30 pm Winter Weekdays 12.45 - 1.30 pm Weekends 2.45 - 3.30 pm Public Holidays 2.45 - 3.30 pm
With its atmosphere of yesteryear, Gold Creek Village just north of Canberra off the Barton Highway is worth a visit. Offering many attractions, including the model village of Cockington Green (see further), the National Dinosaur Museum, the
Australian Reptile Centre and a traditional English pub, the Village offers a range of shopping experiences. In Federation Square, for example, you'll find speciality shops offering terracotta, linen, lace, lollies, local pottery, paintings, golf accessories, men's gifts and craft supplies. You can take time out from the shopping and relax in the coffee shops and a licensed restaurant with a country pub atmosphere. Ginninderra Country Crafts features hand painted porcelain, dolls, pottery and decorative clothing. Here you can see craftspeople at work - and purchase their wares. Among the rustic gardens you will find the oldest building in Gold Creek Village, St Frances Catholic Church, built in 1871. The schoolhouse and residence, built in 1883, take you back to days gone by. Other shops feature leather craft, country-style home wares and speciality gifts.
See for more info and pictures in the
Gold Creek travelogue please.