Final Year Design Thesis
Master Design Studio // Spring 2011
team: beatrice toh // samson tiew
The State of Mine is a critique of the current Australian capital city, Canberra. The project questions the essence of an Australian Capital and challenges the co-existence of capital/city; as well as parliament/public. We begin by asking ‘Will Canberra survive if Parliament and all its associative were to be plugged out of the urban fabric?’ More importantly ‘Will it even exist?’ Has the 20th century efforts to design a perfect city proven to be counter progressive? Building on the observations drawn from the growth of Canberra in the last 100 years, this thesis project aims to rethink the approaches in designing an Australian Capital city for the 21st century. The idea of a capital city is rich with political metaphors and morphological connotations, but also with uncertainties that prevent the growth of a new city and fail to attest to the reasons for starting anew.
Can a new city be expected to be a working capital or should it remain a symbolic capital? Is it possible to accommodate a 21st century democracy in the planning of the city? Beyond all that, could this new city change the current political agenda of Australia? It is our sincere hope that the rethinking of our capital will be extended politically to the leaders of the nation and progressively usher Australia into a new era.
As we dive into further study of Canberra, conclusions suggested that growing a new city while trying to establish a new capital city may be counterproductive. As of today, Canberra is still not self-sufficient as it relies on the importation of food and energy for its operations. the Lack of strategic planning has also led to motor vehicles being an utmost necessity for Canberrans. Perhaps as a capital city, Canberra should be leading a more exemplary lifestyle?
Therefore, if Parliament is the only thing that truly defines Canberra as the capital of city of Australia, could the city be designed purely to house the government and all its supporting functions? By filtering out only what is needed, the capital will be condensed but yet resilient to represent the nation. As such, it will not attempt to reach the size of a full scale city and in doing so achieve freedom from social, political and environmental issues.
In selecting a location for the footprint of Canberra in the 20th century, Walter Burley Griffin looked to natural topographies and site selection simply meant to inhabit landscapes. However we need to be mindful now that there is not much more natural land as concrete buildings and man-made interjections begin to take the place where the flora and fauna were once rooted. It is our stand that an approach of the 21st century must look instead at rehabilitating some of these destroyed landscapes.
Whilst Australian cities have emerged as top ranked cities in the world, our cities are somewhat far from being truly sustainable cities with excessive mining and consumption being a major contributor to the welfare of the country. As we continue to puncture and scar the earth for such minerals, could we also then imagine a better remedy to this damage?
Geographically, Australia’s new capital should support the nation’s efforts to establish itself as a global leader. in its current form, Australia’s main cities are situated towards the south eastern coast of the continent, geographically isolating the current capital, Canberra. Northern territory is the closest to our major international partners. Concurrently, Northern territory has a lot to offer from an economical point of view, having bountiful amounts of natural resources and tourist attractions.
Coincidentally, Australia’s infrastructure network converges in northern Territory. For its scarce urban fabric, this high concentration of national infrastructure is under-utilised in a highly strategic location. This high concentration of infrastructure fused with a geographically strategic location confirms the potential of a new capital city in Northern Territory.
The immense potential and abundance in Northern Territory is also coupled with controversy. The infamous Ranger Uranium mine is located in Northern Territory, sandwiched between Kakadu national park and Arnhem land: both sacred to the indigenous community. While Ranger is a major revenue generator, non of Uranium harvested are being consumed in Australia. The landscape is scarred for pure monetary gain.
Mining is Australia sustains its continuous growth. Federal lawmakers continue to approve increased mining activity despite its detriment to our social and environmental ecology. Whilst mining may be unavoidable for Australia’s long term advancement, the design and placement of the new capital city should be a reflection of Australia’s success story: mining.
The new Capital city, State of Mine, inhabits Ranger mine, rehabilitating a destroyed landscape into a self sufficient city. Conventionally, the mine would be filled with water, creating acid lakes that destroy neighbouring ecologies. Instead, the new capital will preserve the pristine landscapes of Kakadu national park and Arnhem land, respecting the physical co-existence of the new Australia and indigenous Australia.
Being a sole place of governance, it will house the Australian federal government and its supporting staff. The city measures 2km x 3km, and accommodates 60000 individuals. A closed loop rapid transport system coupled with comfortably sized city blocks eliminates the need for cars. Urban farming is scattered across the city for food security. Furthermore, the minicity is dense with a mixture of live, work and play functions , with parliament at the base of the mine. The planned city with its planned demographics will limit individualised growth to ensure resilience in representing the nation as a capital city.
Due to its location, the city operates as a symbolic administrative front but more importantly, as a mid-point between Australian metropolises and the world. A concurrent intention is to encourage growth in Northern Territory, allowing its regional towns to grow, warranting for population increase in the North. Hopefully, this will relieve congestion in Australia’s main cities.
Albeit progressive, State of mine is a portrayal of Australia’s current political situation. The metaphors are inconclusive and only invites speculative interpretation. Critique aside, State of Mine embraces the political future of Australia. It aims to be a facility that allows Australia to take its place in global leadership; its beginnings originating from a less-than-perfect present.