It has cool climate wines and stunning cultural institutions, but is Canberra cool yet? To answer this question, we asked four Sydney design lovers. They all cited modern mid-century architecture, great civic spaces and new developments as clues to Canberra’s ‘coming of age’.
World Class Pockets
Urbanist Linda Gregoriou calls Canberra ‘enigmatic’. “There are lots of little interesting pockets to Canberra. It’s just not ‘in your face’,”she says.
“As an urban planner I’ve always found Canberra fascinating, because it’s one of the four cities in the world that’s been purposely built as a place of government.” Linda says Canberra is as good as Ankara, Brasilia or Delhi and holds up Hotel, Hotel in the New Action precinct, as an example of forward progression.“That whole precinct around the hotel, with the gallery, the bakery and the cinema is world class. It’s as a good, if not better, than anything you’d find in Berlin.”
Director turned designer, Don Cameron who developed the distinctive interiors for Hotel, Hotel, says Canberra has a top architectural pedigree.
“When you look at Canberra’s skyline, it’s based around significant public buildings like Sir Roy Grounds Shine Dome, or Walter Bunning’s National Library which has the tapestries by Mathieu Matégot and even Harry Seidler has a hand with his commercial buildings and town houses,” he says.
“Robert Boyd did a lot of residential; Enrico Taglietti is an émigré who made a lot of civic and residential buildings and from an architectural viewpoint Canberra is great, because it was planned.”
Don attributes the planning of Chicago Group architects Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin, as the strongest source of inspiration for architects working there today.
Daryl Karp who is Director of The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, calls Canberra ‘a very well kept secret’.
“It is an incredibly, vibrant, dynamic, intelligent, well educated space, that has increasingly got great music, great food, great exhibitions,” says Daryl.
She cites the dynamic mix of demographics, collegiate museums and a thumping student base, as key to the city’s growing energy.
Creative Director Adam Yazxhi at MAXCO, who’s recently branded the Writers’s Festival and The Museum of Democracy, says Canberra understands modern tourism.
“People want transformative experiences,” he says.
“I also think The Australian War memorial has shown us how landmarks can transcend that sense of duty, of just going down and having a look in a mournful and sorrowful way, to become something that invites greater discovery and engagement. It’s become a place that has true poignancy and engages audiences with creative story telling,” Adam says.
Adam Yazxhi also likes the robust, intellectual culture as giving Canberra its edge. “With ANU, Parliament House, the High Court, our Press Gallery and all the cultural institutions, you don’t have to look far to find an engaged group!” he says.
Don Cameron agrees this vibrant mix of minds as key to the master planing of Hotel, Hotel with developer Nectar Efkarpidis.
“Nectar was always citing the salons of Europe when we were in the design phase,” says Don.
“The foyer was designed to have this dynamic flux of people and to offer great potential for people from all walks to life to meet. The whole hotel we wanted to be a kind of cultural catalyst,” Don says.
World Class Stop over
Now thanks to entrepreneur and philanthropist Terry Snow, who struck a deal with Singapore Airlines, even more people can touch down in our Capital.
Braddon has officially become a hipster hangout and foodie spot. Sean O’Connell’s Monsteris draw card. QT Canberra offers a menu by Executive Chef Robert Marchetti and in terms of what’s actually filling up your cup? Just look out! Star wineries like Ravensworth and Clonakilla have both raised the bar, while new brews from Canberra’s micro breweries will give you more to cheer about than just a healthy democracy!