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The new era of urbanism begins

Catherine Carter

The news that the winning proposal for the Canberra Brickworks has been selected heralds a new era of urbanism for Canberra.

Established in 1913 as one of the first buildings in Canberra, the Old Canberra Brickworks played an important role in building the nation’s capital.

The original brick kilns were built to Walter Burley Griffin’s specifications, and the Brickworks quarried clay on site, the colour of which created the famous ‘Canberra Reds’. More than four million bricks were pumped out for Old Parliament House alone. Hundreds of homes as well as iconic buildings like the Kingston Powerhouse – now home to the Canberra Glassworks – owe a debt to the Brickworks.

Closed in 1976, the Brickworks have largely lain derelict for decades. Until now.

Home-grown Doma Group was chosen from five companies to develop the 16-hectare site in Yarralumla, which will be transformed into a precinct with restaurants, cafés, art and craft spaces. There will be some retail, a men’s shed and a cycling centre with bike repair shop, as well as 380 new homes set around the heritage buildings.

The former brick quarry will be transformed into Quarry Park with a small lake, while the remnants of the railway that once ferried the bricks to building sites throughout the region will be open to the public.

Doma Group’s managing director Jure Domazet is excited by the opportunity to create what he believes will be the “best residential development in Canberra”.

The existing industrial heritage buildings will make the Brickworks “an absolutely unique place” in Canberra, Domazet says. “There is nowhere else like it.”

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A team of architects from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne will create a dynamic and eclectic mix of buildings including stand-alone houses, terraces and apartments. Urban Renewal Minister Mick Gentleman promises the design will “harmonise with the character of the site and existing Yarralumla streetscapes”.

The mix of building types is mission critical for Canberra. Domazet says his “big idea” is that Canberrans can “downsize to a beautiful house, terrace or apartment” among parkland and “resort facilities” within a “vibrant and engaging community”.

The Brickworks is poised as a ‘cool community’ for both young and old. A place perfect for grandparents to downsize and stay within the community they love, and a place where grandkids are happy to hang out too.

But the bigger story here is about how Canberra is changing – and as it does, it is creating innovative and inspiring places where people want to live.

We are starting to get the housing choice that people have long craved. Those who want to live in greenfield estates have truly innovative development to choose from – like Ginninderry, which has been awarded a world leadership Six Star Green Star rating for its sustainability efforts. And like Denham Prospect, which promises to be a quality residential development, and which also happens to have set aside 20 percent of all blocks for affordable housing.

Those who want to downsize but stay within their existing suburb are starting to see more options. The Bellerive community for independent living in Woden is a good example.

People who want to embrace the best of urban life will soon be spoilt for choice, whether it’s in the übercool NewActon or Braddon, or somewhere along the Northbourne Avenue light rail corridor.

As our city evolves, we aren’t losing the leafiness so many of us love. I can’t think of another city where a 15-minute drive from the CBD lands you in bushland. Where wineries and open countryside are just half an hour away. Or where you can enjoy a cappuccino while overlooking the lake and a paddock full of cows, as the denizens of Kingston’s foreshore can.

We are on the cusp of something exciting – and that is a modern contemporary city with something for everyone.

Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and creative thinker, Catherine is passionate about Canberra. Head of the Property Council of Australia’s Canberra office for more than a decade, Catherine now heads up a boutique consulting firm, Indigo Consulting Australia, where she retains an interest and focus on urban environments, community building, and diversity. She provides a range of specialist business and communication advisory services to a number of organisations including development and construction companies, law firms, and the Canberra Glassworks, and sits on a several boards including Music for Canberra, the National Association of Women in Construction ACT Chapter Council and the Ministerial Advisory Council on Women. Catherine was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women’s ACT Community and Government Award in 2010. More about the Author

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