Canberra, Australia’s national capital, is a designed city in the landscape, a special case that is the embodiment of ambitious democratic and modern ideals and one of the world’s great twentieth century planned cities.
In 1912, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, American landscape architects, who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, won an international design competition for Canberra. Griffin’s ‘City Beautiful’ vision was for a completely new, and ‘modern’ type of Australian city, where buildings, roads, gardens and the natural environment worked together.
Thanks to two world wars, Canberra remained relatively undeveloped for three decades (1920s–50s). However, with post-war optimism, the Australian federal government created the National Capital Development Commission, or NCDC (1958-1989), beginning a renewed push to intensively develop and populate the national capital.
Architects and landscape architects of the time were engaged by the NCDC and they used the city as a laboratory. Much like Palm Springs, it was an empty canvas and Canberra became the place where these professionals experimented. Many of these designers are now considered pioneers of the modern movement in Australia and their modernist contribution to Canberra’s urban environment, built on the Griffin’s ‘City Beautiful’ vision, influences the way we live today; the city has an extraordinary quality, like nowhere elsewhere in Australia.
Canberra Modern is an annual program of events showcasing and celebrating the modernist spirit of Australia’s capital. Canberra Modern aims to promote the protection and appreciation of the midcentury modern places that make an irreplaceable contribution to Canberra’s historic urban and designed cultural landscape. Presenter Rachel Jackson is one of three creative directors and co-founders of Canberra Modern.
Things to Know
This event is for all ages.
This event is wheelchair accessible.
The organizer of this event is Modernism Week.
Event Check-in Location
Modernism Week CAMP Theater, 575 N Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Photo Credits: Canberra Design Competition, 1912. View from Mount Ainslie, drawing in ink, watercolor and gouache on linen. Source: A710,49 Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin Collection, National Archives of Australia., Canberra under construction, circa 1968. Source: National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), National Library of Australia., The Fenner House, Red Hill, Canberra, 1952, Architect: Robin Boyd. Source: Robin Boyd Foundation., The Australian Academy of Science, 1958. Architect: Sir Roy Grounds of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd. Source: Darren Bradley Photography., The Benjamin House, Deakin, Canberra, 1956. Architect Alex Jelinek. Source: Darren Bradley Photography., Canberra Modern Event, 2017: The Swing Katz at Modernist Markets. Source: Rachel Jackson.
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