The project to develop the Kingston Foreshore onto Lake Burley Griffin was initiated by the ACT Government in the mid-1990s. For Stewart Architecture, the competition for the masterplan offered an opportunity to test our theories about urban design, resurrecting some of the original ideas about Canberra’s urban plan articulated by its master planner (and the lake’s namesake) Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion almost a century ago. Our masterplan – like many undertaken by the practice – began with a holistic vision, a set of ideas about urban structure, density and use. It wasn’t designed specifically for housing or offices or culture; it was designed as an armature for incremental development over the longer term, accommodating almost any potential mix of uses.
The masterplan develops many ideas that have become a signature in our work. It is for a human neighbourhood, of modest scale with distinct public spaces that are walkable and connected. Closely connected to the water, the urban environment has a very different feel to other parts of the city, where the natural point of connection is to the surrounding bush. The hard landscape steps directly to the lake, forming a circuit along the foreshore popular with walkers and runners, and reminiscent of harbourfront developments in maritime cities such as Oslo. This is faced by an active layer of retail and restaurants at street level, with apartments and offices above, and fronted by pontoons and boat docks. Three of the lakefront residential buildings – Bridge Point, Dockside and Azure – have also been designed by Stewart Architecture.
Slowly emerging over twenty years, the master plan has not only been formative to our own approach, but also in developing the wider neighbourhood around it. A cluster of older structures behind the waterfront is undergoing restoration to create a precinct of arts buildings, connected to and feeding off the Foreshore development. These include The Fitters Workshop, a listed structure designed in 1917 as part of an industrial complex, now documented and restored by us to public use.