Crikey says: happy birthday, national capi-dull
“I have planned a city that is not like any other in the world. I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city — a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future.”
So said Walter Burley Griffin of the city he so famously designed, our national capital, reviled and revered for a century. Canberra.
The orchestra is limbering up and champagne is flowing around the shores of Lake Burley Griffin today as Canberrans celebrate their city’s 100th birthday. It was in 1913 that Lady Denman, wife of then governor-general Lord Denman, stood upon the newly laid Foundation Stones and declared the capital would be named Canberra.
Readers elsewhere may know little of these festivities and care less. Canberra is a dull, remote, overgrown provincial capital, right? Full of public servants and roundabouts, baking hot in summer, freezing in winter — you can’t even catch a train or a tram.
Well, perhaps after a century it’s time to rethink our comfortable condescension with this country’s capital and its residents.
It’s much closer to nature than its big sisters, Sydney and Melbourne. There are trees over the fence and kangaroos on the lawn. There are birds, there’s fresh air. There’s glorious space, there’s a bevvy of interesting, well-educated people who love discussing big ideas and make for top dinner party guests. There are museums and galleries. And there’s the addictive drug of federal politics which will hit up the city again tomorrow, as Parliament resumes.
It may not be Burley Griffin’s “ideal city”, but if you’ve written it off it might be time to think again. And wherever you stand, you have to concede one point: it really is “a city that is not like any other in the world”.
Categories: Crikey Says