National and State Project Awards in Landscape Architecture



Category: Design
Award: Merit
Sue Barnsley Design

Project: Commonwealth Place ACT

Commonwealth Place Canberra
This project brings together two complex programs, one to create a habitable and captivating outdoor place, capable of engaging and sheltering one and twelve thousand people. The other to respect the views and discipline of the dominant Land Axis and the structure of Griffin‘s plan for Canberra.
The initial image was of a cupped hand, representing gathering and collection at the Lake edge. This gentle curve is at once open and enclosing. Its edges hold the axis, while the ramp extends the axial view. It forms a habitable, iconic topography.

Its primary character is of a warped landscape which wraps Griffin’s Land Axis. The cupped form is an inversion of both Mount Ainslie and New Parliament House. From across the Lake, Old Parliament House is positioned at the centre of an ellipse, celebrating the modest built beginnings of democracy in Australia. This ellipse is described by the base of the Cupped
Square of Commonwealth Place and the curved line of New Parliament House. The intention of the grand ramp was to be an inflected space, transforming from wall to landscape bench, physically connecting Commonwealth Place with the great lawn in front of Old Parliament House.

Our hope was that the views linking Old Parliament House and the waters edge of Lake Burley Griffin would be clearly revealed and celebrated for the very first time. The ramp now links to second monument, the mound of Reconciliation Place. Materials were specifically chosen to express a gentle and fluid monumentality. The liquid light of the glass walls plays with and softens the Canberra sunshine through out the year. The flickering of glass and the delicate and variegated pattern of the stone-faced back wall is suggestive of a curtain draped across the site, gradually lightening toward the ramp opening.

The dark pavement emphasises the cutting and incision of the landscape and joins the recessive quality of the grassed lawns of the Parliamentary Axis. A grove of white birch trees navigates across the space, immediately populating this grass theatre. Bounding avenues of gum trees hold and ground this place within the Parliamentary landscape.

Competition Team:
Durbach Block Architects
Sue Barnsley Design
Harold Straatveit
Cusp Media

Project Managers:
Weathered Howe
Design Team:
Durbach Block
Landscape Architects:
Sue Barnsley Design
Structural, Civil & Hydraulic Engineers:
Ove Arup & Partners
Lighting Design:
J3 Design
Quantity Surveyor:
Page Kirkland DCWC (ACT)
BCA Consultants:
Philip Chun & Associates