An Ideal City? The 1912 Competition to Design Canberra

The National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia have created this site, which discusses the competition to design Australian’s capital city. All 46 shortlisted designs are available, along with commentary by  Professor John Reps of Cornell University, “who conducted extensive research at the National Archives of Australia, National Capital Authority and the National Library of Australia.” There are many archival photos and diagrams and some interesting discussion.

Canberra could have looked like this!

(“In 1901 Australian architect Charles Coulter sketched his vision for the future capital in this watercolour, ‘An ideal federal city, Lake George, New South Wales’.”)

Some notable entries to the competition to design Canberra include: a handful of entries wanting to make Canberra a “mini Paris” or “Paris of the South Pacific”, a monorail entry, and “An obsession with circles and ellipses [which] results in a town plan resembling a collage of dartboards and footballs,” and “Heaton’s plan is a consistent study in concentric circles and radiating streets. Parliament is at the centre of this massive cobweb. Four main boulevards lead to the cardinal points of the compass. It is a very impractical design.”


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