Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old Canberra Streetscapes: Inner South

South of my Days
~ Judith Wright

South of my days' circle, part of my blood's country,
rises that tableland, high delicate outline
of bony slopes wincing under the winter,
low trees, blue-leaved and olive, outcropping granite-
clean, lean, hungry country. The creek's leaf-silenced,
willow choked, the slope a tangle of medlar and crabapple
branching over and under, blotched with a green lichen;
and the old cottage lurches in for shelter.

O cold the black-frost night. the walls draw in to the warmth
and the old roof cracks its joints; the slung kettle
hisses a leak on the fire. Hardly to be believed that summer
will turn up again some day in a wave of rambler-roses,
thrust it's hot face in here to tell another yarn-
a story old Dan can spin into a blanket against the winter.
seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones,
seventy years are hived in him like old honey.

Yesterday I went for a walk with my trusty pocket camera. I so needed to clear my head and get some exercise. I also wanted to capture some authentic Canberra streetscapes and vernacular architecture. The location is one of the most expensive postcodes in the country - unbelievably, since there are no ocean views. It was interesting to discover some sneaky back streets, ramshackle houses and new building works going on amidst the planned thoroughfares and embassy residences as well as some historic remnants of Old Canberra. Well, "old" in a modern sense. 

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was declared on 1 January 1911 and an international competition to design the new capital city of Australia was held. More than 130 entries were received in the competition and the winning entry was submitted by American architect Walter Burley Griffin and his partner and wife, Marion Mahony Griffin. 

My meanderings took me around these original, early streets of this young Bush Capital. The majority of the precinct was constructed in 1926 – 27 to meet the urgent need to provide housing for public servants prior to the opening of the provisional Parliament House in 1927.  The street layout is directly derived from Griffins 1913 plan which defined the major axes of Melbourne and Hobart Avenues radiating from Capital Hill and concentric circles.  The latter always has me completely baffled and it is almost impossible to navigate even with a map.  I took it slowly on foot determined not to get lost.


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