Mrs Heritage and I just got back from a few days jaunt to Canberra checking up on Ant and Pete. Loads of traffic but excellent roads, and now a big city.
The last few blocks as you enter along Northborne Ave to Civic are lined with wall to wall cramped up five and six and more storey hotels, apartments and offices, as is much of Braddon and surrounding districts. Architecturally speaking the buildings are all bland big shoe boxes – something heritage Bathurst would do well to avoid. The concrete canyons are saved by the foresight of the city fathers to plant lots and lots of very big trees which soften unbridled commerce.
But gone is the big country town I remembered. The classic heritage buildings at Civic which defined Canberra are still there, but now are swamped into insignificance. The parliamentary triangle is still evocative with those massive public and brutalist government buildings surrounded and separated by huge swathes of open space, parkland, big trees and the lake. You can do big brutalist buildings if there is plenty of space around them to frame the scale.
The idea of Bathurst becoming the fledgling nation’s capital engendered great optimism when it was hotly debated at the 1896 Peoples Federation Convention on the corner of Howick and William Streets. Imagine if those 220 good men had been successful and we now lived in a jungle like Canberra where there is no free parking but there is great food.
My mate Mick says he likes the big country town feel of our city. And he really likes the Federation Convention Chair in front of the headmasters House in Howick Street. Mick says it’s very “blokey” – see if you can find any women on the list in front of it.
thought of the day……. “A visionary called Burley Griffin created Canberra, and a visionary called Lachlan Macquarie created Bathurst. What would each do now to update their visions for a better city tomorrow?”
by a humble heritage advocate – March 2023 column #272