THE COMPETITION FOR A DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE CAPITAL OF AUSTRALIA
[First name unknown ] Wernekke
Der Städtbau VI (1909): 163-64.News about the outcome of the Australian Federal Capital appeared in several publications in Europe. Perhaps more than in any other country, city planning had become an accepted function of municipal government in Germany, and it was assumed that many entries would be received from German professionals. As it turned out not a single competitor was from this country--one the several mysteries that await further investigation.This journal has already reported on the competition sponsored by the Australian Federal Government in volume 12, issued in 1909. The competition guidelines, more importantly the fact that the jury was to be solely comprised of Australian jurors excluding known planners from Europe and America for example, generated considerable consternation in the field. In spite of these warnings, which were published in various professional journals, participation in the competition was extensive - the jury received 137 entries. Considering the magnitude of the project, a differently composed jury may well have interested other known experts to participate in the competition, but who have stayed away in this case. The task of the jury was not small. After disqualifying 11 entries because the participants had failed to comply with the guidelines by including their names in their designs, the jury was left with 500 drawings to evaluate. According to the jury's account, the jurors approached their task with great conscientiousness considering all aspects which may have benefited a design. Unfortunately, the criteria on which they based their judgment were not included in their account. Although the jury was comprised of only three jurors, it was unable to reach a unanimous agreement. Consequently the Minister of Interior, who was entitled to make the final decision, was given a majority and minority opinion, both of which considered different projects worthy of a prize. Based on the majority opinion, the Minister awarded the architect and landscape designer W. B. Griffin from Chicago with the first prize. For the second and third prizes, he suggested respectively, the architect Saarinen from Helsingfors and professor D. A. Agache from Paris. The three best entries, according to the minority opinion, were those submitted by W. S. Griffiths and two colleagues from Sidney, A. C. Comey, Cambridge (U.S.A.), S. A.), and N. Gellerstedt, Stockholm. His co-workers were Messrs. Lindgren and du Rietz. In addition, the majority opinion considered the project of A. V. B. Magonigle, New York, as well as that of Schanfelberg [i.e., Schaufelberg], Rees, and Gummer, London, noteworthy solutions. A letter, which was sent to the editor of the journal by a known body, reveals that the jury's conclusion was considered rather unsatisfactory .
The German professional journal in the field was Der Städtbau, the first publication in the world to be devoted to city planning, and it provided its readers with a long critical analysis of Walter Burley Griffin's winning design several months after the prizes were announced. Early in this article, however, the author--identified in the journal only by his last name and this title: " Senior Administrative Officer, Berlin - Zehlendorf"--demonstrates his lack of knowledge in stating: "The designs submitted from Germany were not only unsuccessful but also criticized for their curvilinear street layout. In addition, these projects showed little respect for incorporating the waterfronts in their plans. The first critique especially provoked the displeasure of the jury. Together with the French projects, which tended to be fan-shaped designs with the exception of Agache's, the German projects were dismissed by the jury."
The designs submitted from Germany were not only unsuccessful but also criticized for their curvilinear street layout. In addition, these projects showed little respect for incorporating the waterfronts (Wasserflaechen) in their plans. The first critique especially provoked the displeasure of the jury. Together with the French projects, which tended to be fan-shaped designs with the exception of Agache's, the German projects were dismissed by the jury
The winner of the first prize, which was 1750 pounds (35000 mark), had distinguished himself already with a plan for a small town of approximately 2000 inhabitants. This plan is now being implemented in America. He had also made an urban (renewal) proposal for the Chinese government that called for the elimination of the old and unhealthy native quarters of Shanghai to be replaced with a contemporary urban design. In his plan for the capital of Australia (see plate 38 and figures 2 and 3), he emphasized that he adapted his design to suit local conditions and that he avoided established solutions that did not correspond to these conditions. It seems to us that this consideration for the urban terrain applies to the design of individual districts (city quarters) and to the lay out of the streets in both the outskirts and residential quarters nestling against the city's hilly slopes. However, a look at the entire city plan gives the decisive impression that those streets which surround the center of individual urban districts and those which connect these sections have been planned according to geometric considerations. As the plan reveals, they dominate the design by pushing into the background those areas of the city which have curvilinear streets and which have been adapted to the terrain.
This adaptive use of the terrain is brought to the forefront in that the entire plan is designed around three axes which are directed toward hills rising at the outskirts of the city. These include the Black mountain (810 m) located in the northwest, the Ainslie (840 m) in the northeast, and the Mugga-Mugga (810 m) in the south. While the smaller hills, which are located within the city and rise at midway 600 m above sea level, have been crowned with magnificent buildings, the flat and lower areas have been reserved for residential and industrial districts. The three axes deviate more or less from the cardinal points. As a result, buildings can evade a complete northern exposure and all streets are assured sunshine. The main axis, which runs from the southwest to the northeast crossing the government center and extending beyond the Ainslie mountain, was chosen because of the direction of the Bimberi mountain. Located 50 km to the southwest, this mountain, which is almost always covered by snow, has a height of 1900 m. The second axis, which deviates slightly from its south-north orientation, crosses the center of the "municipal section" which is located between the Black and Ainslie mountain. Lastly the third axis, the one of the suburban residential section, it stretches between the southeast and northwest and points toward the Black mountain. All three axes intersect at the "Capitol." Here, one has to acknowledge a happy adaptation to the terrain. This is particularly true with regard to the government sector where the snow covered mountain provides the direction for the main street framed with stately buildings. When built successfully, it will offer a magnificent site. This main street, together with the other two major streets which correspond to the axes, is not a major traffic artery. This is already negated in that all the axes run through the capitol. In fact, the main traffic arteries are usually located in the flat terrain of the city .
The government buildings are grouped within an enclosed part of the city which is nevertheless easily accessible. The capitol provides the focal point for an urban section whose streets parallel the sites of a regular octagon. The streets also correspond to the diameter of this polygon (octagon). Nine streets are directed toward the capitol; none of these reach its center for a parking area separates the main building from the surrounding streets. Next to the capitol are the Governors and Prime Ministers palace. The terrain slopes toward the waterway. At a lower level of the slope, we find the parliament building which stands transverse to the often mentioned axis; to the right and left of this axis are terraces. Facing the water, they house the administrative buildings and state offices. Beyond the waterway lies a crescent shaped park (public gardens) symmetrical to the axis. A stately residential section (Villenviertel) lies at the back of the park which terminates with a casino located at the slope of a rising mountain. This site provides a good view of the city. Behind the casino we find woods with walking trails (Waldspaziergaenge).
The second focal point of the city plan is provided by the city hall located in the municipal center beyond the waterway. Surrounding the city hall are the law courts, the main post office, banks, the stock exchange, etc. To avoid overcrowding of public buildings in one area, the main railway station was selected as the third focal point. In its vicinity are the market halls, a number of commercial buildings, as well as warehouses and factories. Their activities do not interfere with the surrounding area. Here we also find the main church. These three focal points mark the corners of an equilateral triangle in which the site located opposite the capitol is formed by a park situated along the waterfront. In its center, the stretch between city hall and main railway station, is a cultural area (Erholungsviertel) including museums, theaters, baths, and the zoological gardens among others. The larger and for the surrounding troublesome factories as well as other commercial undertakings have been grouped and relegated to the north of the city. In this quarter also lies the freight station, the gas works, and other "necessary evils."
At the opposite end of city, southeast to the capitol and in part encroaching the slope of the Mugga-Mugga, the plan calls for a village which is to serve in part agricultural needs and to provide rural residential quarters.
Finally there is the university area and the military post. Both are located along a waterfront, the first is situated in the west end of the city the latter is in the east end. The university adjoins the hospital which has been placed on a peninsula that projects ingeniously into the lake providing a quiet spot. We find the military academy next to the military post.
An important part in designing a city plan, such as this one, is the transportation network. As the vehicular transportation of most major cities is usually handled by track rail (trams), the plan emphasized the importance of reaching every point of the city by rail, creating the shortest and most direct connections between individual urban parts. This systematic and goal oriented plan for the tramways (rail) will show its real worth later after the city has been built as well as in future expansions.
This also holds true for the railroad which is easier to integrate into a plan for a new city than an existing one. The railroad here starts in the factory area of the north. In its vicinity is the main freight station and additional warehouses. Leaving this area, the railroad drops below the street level and after moving toward the east enters the main railroad station in an open cutting. The station (building) is elevated above the tracks thus dominating its surroundings. After passing through the station, the railroad heads toward the south crossing a waterway and finally terminating in the village located in the southeast. To the right and left the railroad is flanked by a broad street and tramway.
The major focus of the plan for the capital is provided by its role as the governmental center; trade and transportation as well as the production of goods play a subsidiary part. Public buildings therefore dominate the design. With regard to their execution, Griffin suggests excluding historical styles favoring instead a search for new styles which can be adapted to the various functions, climatic conditions, and such. As example for such buildings, he suggests the projects (Anlagen) for the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 with its memorable Court of Honor, with the difference that the buildings served only temporary needs while those planned for the capital have to express permanence. In place of the "inevitable cupola" for the capitol, Griffin suggests a large stepped pyramid. As a contemporary architect, he favors the use of reinforced concrete whose special properties, he believes, could also be expressed in the design. Because the city has access to a large piece of land, the design of the buildings was to emphasize width and breadth instead of height.
[Translated by Dr. Irene Ayad.]
Selected, 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