CHIEF Minister Andrew Barr wants to steal Wellington’s crown as the world’s “coolest little capital”. So, how do we do it?
We’ve got pockets of cool – from the hipster vibe of Lonsdale Street to the sophistication of NewActon; places that have their own character that can’t necessarily be replicated. How do we help other areas create something new?
Currently, our city’s buzz is all around the edges – from ANU Exchange in the west to the Canberra Centre in the east. In the middle is what some people call the “dead zone”.
Architect Alastair MacCallum, who has worked on many interesting projects around Canberra, including the adaptive reuse of Juliana House in Woden, says: “Good things are happening in Canberra – but it’s how we link those things together that presents the challenge”.
Alastair is right. Canberra is the same geographic size as Barcelona – with just a fraction of the population. Making use of our limited resources requires creativity and innovation.
Our 15.7 per cent office vacancy rate doesn’t help. When people aren’t occupying those buildings there’s fewer people spending their $10 a day on coffees and lunches. These offices could become apartments, hotels, artists’ workshops, performance spaces – anything that breathes new life into the CBD.
Another acclaimed architect Nathan Judd, who recently worked on Braddon’s Ori building, points out that everyone is talking about Lonsdale Street, but not Mort Street. Why?
“Because both sides of the street are playing together,” he says.
And “playing together” is the key. We need government, industry and the community to work together to make Canberra a cool capital. We already have a world-beater in NewActon’s Nishi building, which was recently named International Project of the Year at the 2015 Building Awards in London.
We know how to do cool – we just need to get on with it.