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A proposal for a 17 storey building not far from the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin is unacceptably unsympathetic to the National Capital Plan but is currently on public notification by the National Capital Authority (NCA). The proposed development is at the end of Edinburgh Avenue south of the heritage Hotel Acton, overlooking Parkes Way.

The height and scale of the proposal called ‘Nishi’ on this location is at odds with the geometry, landscape design and symbolism of the Griffin Plan. Perusal of the planning report, design report and architectural drawings submitted by the proponent in support of the works application make no reference to the Griffin Legacy or the National Capital Plan.

Walter Burley Griffin rejected towers. He emphasised that buildings in Canberra should be horizontal, not vertical “… the necessity of making these large units stand end on end, as in the congested American cities, can be avoided in a Capital City, securing a horizontal distribution of the large masses for more and better air, sunlight, verdure and beauty.”
Professor James Weirick has pointed out that the principle of horizontal building masses in the design of Canberra is particularly important.

The National Capital Plan ‘Policies and Standards for Urban Design’ inscribe the principle that “Buildings in Central Canberra should be of a height generally not greater than the height of the mature tree canopy (typically 3 to 4 stories).” The principle is fundamental to the character of the city created since the 1920s.

Brett Odgers from the Canberra Chapter of the Walter Burley Griffin Society states that “This proposal would impair important Central National Area vistas, and it foreshadows the proposed commercialisation and privatisation of West Basin, a vital formal component of the symbolic, Griffin Plan core of the National Capital. Such appropriation of public land in Washington, the American national capital, would be unthinkable and should be here too.”

The height and scale of this works proposal is insensitive and ill conceived. It needs to be rejected to ensure that the symbolic national area of Canberra is not adversely impacted. Similarly Amendment 61 for West Basin needs to be reviewed so that Canberra’s heritage and major assets of foreshores and the vistas across the Water, or Nature Axis to Acton Ridge and Black Mountain are retained and not adversely affected.