[DESCRIPTION OF THE PLAN FOR THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL CAPITAL BY LAWSON AND PARR OF SOUTH AFRICA]
George W. Lawson and David J. Parr
Typescript, Australian Archives, Series CP487/6/1/ Item 1In 1927 George Gavin Lawson ( ? - ? ) sent his registration to the Institute of South African Architects and gave his business address as Stow Chambers, Flinders St., Adelaide, South Australia. It is not known whether at the time of the competition he was an Australian working for a time in South Africa or a South African who later moved to Australia.Report of The Federal Capital City of the Commonwealth of Australia The Authors, after having made a careful and thorough study of the general information and particulars, climatic conditions, geological survey, plaster model and the cycloramic views of the City area, were of the decided opinion as to the advisability of removing the line of proposed Railway as suggested on the original contour plan; and also the canalization and complete control of the river within the City area. The reasons, primarily being:-
The competition drawings Lawson and Parr sent to Melbourne somehow became separated and were assigned three different numbers. In the manuscript list of competitors that matches numbers with names, a notation about the entry given number 68 reads "found afterwards to be part of 36." The drawing assigned number 8 with the name W. Powries from Albury, New South Wales shows features identical to entry number 36. Fortunately, the unidentified description transcribed below in the records of the Department of Home Affairs matches in all important respects the features and details of the drawings with the numbers 8 and 36. Since this description begins with "The Authors," this design can safely be attributed to Lawson and Parr.
In 1906 David Joseph Parr (1887- ? ) had worked for two years in the architecture office of J. R. Burg & Hall in Pretoria. It was then that Parr wrote the Director of Agriculture in Pretoria applying for a position, explaining that "owing to the depression in the building trade I am obliged to leave." He identified himself as a nineteenyear old holding "a first class certificate for English, History, Geography, Arithmetic, German, and Mathematics" with a fair knowledge of Dutch." He attached a letter of recommendation from an architect in his office and a letter from his school, both commending his abilities. He learned that there were no positions vacant, and his letter to the Chief Engineer of Buildings in the Public Works Department brought the same response. Parr's subsequent career has yet to be traced, although evidently by 1911 he had succeeded in finding employment with the Public Works Department, the address from which the competition design was sent.
By the canalization of the river we were enabled to obtain what is undoubtedly admitted to be the most economical in regard to drainage and haulage; the most convenient as regards access to and from the main centres of the City; and at the same time, by the introduction of embankments, parks, lakes, and open spaces, exceedingly picturesque and health[y] areas are obtained--which act as "the lungs of the City".
The Railway having been diverted so as to at once relieve the manufacturing centre of the town and avoid the always extremely confusing and dangerous habit of combining the Main Industrial and Passenger Stations in one, the Authors have been enabled to successfully serve the Industrial, Market and passenger Traffic in three separate stations. The contours of the proposed new line are not over wasteful and could be surveyed and planned with very little difficulty into an exceedingly simple construction.
In relation to the beauty of the City the Railway, as originally planned, destroys one of the finest wooded slopes on the site, and would always be in evidence from all view points of the city.
The revised line of Railway is more or less subservient, and would not be an obstruction to the successful treatment of the main vistas.
A special study has been made of the different architectural effects, possible to emphasize, by placing the most important buildings, such as the Houses of Parliament, State House, Cathedral, University etc., on the more prominent points of vantage throughout the City area, the Authors in all cases striving to obtain vistas in the main arteries culminating with some important Public Building, Place of Worship, or Monument.
the predominating feature of the whole City is the stately and noble structure of the Houses of Parliament, which has been placed in the most prominent point of vantage on the City site, and will always be visible as a striking illustration of what the City is-- "A FEDERAL CAPITAL."
The Palace of Justice has been designed with a frontage to the undulating park and river view, ornamental gardens, suitable monuments and elegantly proportioned arcadings supporting the stately and interesting dome of the main building--the whole being set in a square surrounded by what would be the legal centre of the city. At the same time a main thoroughfare leads direct to the Gaol, facilitating the transit of prisoners for trial etc., whenever necessary.
The Civic centre has been made the Hub of the entire City, being within easy access from every part, as will be seen from the Lay-out Plan on strainer No. 1 and also strainer No. 2. All Government Buildings, National Museum, Library and Art Gallery, Post Office, Civic Hall and National Theatre have been planned to complete the whole. The eight different tram systems all converge to the main centre.
The Main Avenue of the City leading from the Passenger Station across the river and up to the Triumphal Arches enclosing the Civic Centre and thence to the Houses of Parliament, has been treated in a free, and at once interesting style, by the introduction of a double row of trees in the centre, with a promenade between for pedestrians, and on each side a large thoroughfare for tramways and vehicular traffic respectively. Arcading has also been introduced, which at once obviates the use of the crude and unsightly verandah and invites the introduction of loggias in the upper floors of all buildings.
The Cathedral has been placed in a quiet and picturesque spot, being in close proximity to the large park and lake on the Eastern side of the City and will always be a striking feature in the landscape from any point of the City.
The other main arteries of the City have been kept to 150 feet wide, and the residential or suburban streets vary from 100 feet to 60 feet in width, treated with a double row of tree[s] on each side of the street, all as shewn on the sketches provided on strainer No. 7.
The Governor General's and Prime Minister's Residences, and all important residential buildings, have been placed on the North-West of the site under the shelter of the Spurs-of-Black Mountain, having excellent views of the South-West, North-East, and West, down to the University and valley beyond.
A Main Hospital has been designed on the rising and well wooded portion of the Southern side of the City proper. Other Hospitals, of course, would be provided on the most suitable sites round the City.
The Authors suggest the introduction of Colleges and Schools at the intermediate centres in the main thoroughfare at the mile radius from the Civic Centre--the sites being coloured green on the Lay-Out Plan, strainer No. 1.
The Military Barracks have been placed on a well wooded and prominent hill to the North-East of the site, overlooking and within easy access of the Railway, and at the same time more or less commanding the view of the whole city.
The Main Sports Ground or Stadium has been placed so as to serve the entire City, and at the same time being in touch with the river for the purpose of boating, yachting etc. Other minor grounds would be provided at different points to serve the local and suburban Clubs.
At all junctions of the main arteries of the City, ornamental gardens have been provided to minimize the dust nuisance and materially help the distribution of traffic to the different points of the City.
The general style of Architecture suggested by the Authors would be as shewn on the accompanying drawings illustrating the entire scheme.
Deep shade and colour at once suggest themselves as the most suitable for the climatic conditions, with abundant open and ornamental gardens around the main centres.
The following is a list of the more important streets, squares etc.-
The Main Avenue
The Subsidiary Avenues
The Secondary Subsidiary Avenues
The Suburban Avenues
250 feet in width.
150 " " "
100 " " "
Varying from 100 to 60 feet in width
all of which are shewn on strainer No. 7.
The Civic Centre will be 1,200 feet in diameter, treated with a circular colonnade enclosing a large and striking monument symbolical of the Nation, the whole surrounded in turn by ornamental gardens, fountains and subsidiary monuments representing the different important events in the History of the Nation. The smaller centres, at a radius of a mile from this, will be from 300 to 400 feet diameter, treated as open spaces and in all cases serving as "the lungs" of the different portions of the city.
The Tramway systems have been suggested on Strainer No. 1 by the red line running along the streets. All the systems would be controlled from the Main Power Station shewn on the Manufacturing Centre on Strainer No. 1.
The Manufacturing Centre of the City has been kept to the East of the site, and is planned surrounding a large lake with abundant ornamental gardens for the use of healthy and invigorating recreations for the children, and at the same time is most conveniently served by the Railway.
The Storm Water System:-
The whole of the City area, as shewn on Strainer No. 8, has been divided into smaller catchment areas, each of which will be drained, as shewn, by sewers (in dotted vermillion lines) to the river. In no case is it advisable to exceed 15 feet per second velocity in any drain, as velocities exceeding this are exceedingly dangerous. All the storm water drains will discharge into the river over a water cushion of approved pattern. The Authors would advise the construction of a third lake on the East side of the Railway line. A waste weir of sufficient dimensions would be constructed to take the calculated discharge from the catchment area of the river. The waste weir would be arranged as a viaduct to take the Railway over, and falling shutters or automatically worked sluices would be fitted to govern the floods.
In conclusion, the Authors wish to suggest the placing of the plaster models of the Main Avenue from the Station to the Houses of Parliament on some raised position as, of course, by so doing a much better idea of the true proportion and scale of the whole is obtainable.
The total number of strainers illustrating the entire scheme is No. 1 to No. 8, and three plaster models shewing treatment of Main Avenue, Civic centre, Station and Houses of Parliament.
Selected, transcribed, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org To Top of Page To Homepage