The question of Canberra remains, if not the most urgent, one of the most interesting in Australian urbanism. The city was shaped by its time, sited in a paddock to placate a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne which still exists and a threat of Russian invasion which now seems unlikely. For all who have ever found themselves haunted by the city, either in the form of nightmares or dreams, the launch of the CAPIThetical, “a competition for a hypothetical Australian capital city,” is exciting news. CAPIThetical is timed to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the capital design competition in 2012, and is backed by the federal and ACT governments, the Australian Institute of Architects and a gaggle of universities and professional organizations.
Suitably for a city shaped by foreigners as well as Australians, the competition seeks entries from around the world and from a wide range of disciplines. It asks the hypothetical question “what capital would we imagine now?” and encourages a response informed by the historical debate over the Australian capital both before and after its construction. In the interest of encouraging well-considered responses, CAPIThetical offers participants plenty of time to contemplate, with stage 1 submissions not due until 31 January 2012.
A list of resources and other useful information is posted on the CAPIThetical website. I would recommend a read of Grand Obsessions, Alasdair McGregor’s excellent and moving biography of Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin, the winners of the original competition. I hope the winner of CAPIThetical has an easier time of it than they did.