New international competition for a hypothetical capital city

News /
6 May 2011
New international competition for a hypothetical capital city

A new international ideas competition for a hypothetical capital city has been launched in Canberra - asking the world’s best designers and artists with a passion for cities and urban culture to imagine how a national capital ‘might’ look if created today.

Launched this morning (Friday 6 May 2011) by Competition Ambassador His Excellency Michael Bryce AM AE, CAPITheticAL is designed to provoke new thinking about the nature of national capitals and planned cities internationally, while celebrating the past, present and future of Canberra.

The competition, which boasts total prizes in excess of $100,000, comes 100 years after the original call for design entries for a capital city for the newly federated Australian nation.

Speaking at the official opening, Centenary of Canberra Creative Director Robyn Archer said: “Core to our celebration of Canberra’s origins, is the recognition that 100 years ago, the desire for a new capital for a new nation was bred of a genuinely altruistic nation-building spirit. A century later, CAPITheticAL provides an opportunity for the world’s ‘best thinkers and designers’ to let their imagines soar once again – to consider and present 21st century ideas addressing the kinds of challenges that would be faced if they were placed in that situation today.”

Ms Archer added: “This is a classic hypothetical, which asks participants to put themselves in a hypothetical position and see how they respond. This will apply to the competition’s audiences as much as to the entrants.

We ask everyone to look at the quality of the conversation around our national capital, the heat of the debate, to absorb the wide range of considerations 100 years ago (from climate conditions to the perceived threat of Russian invasion), and then give themselves the same hypothetical challenge now. If you had to plan and build a new capital now, how would you go about it?”

“Many of the issues 2011 entrants will have to take into consideration will be different from those 100 years ago: climate change will be at the top of that list, but so will the digital and communications revolution.” “Core to our celebration of Canberra’s origins, is the recognition that 100 years ago, the desire for a new capital for a new nation was bred of a genuinely altruistic nation-building spirit. A century later, CAPITheticAL provides an opportunity for the world’s ‘best thinkers and designers’ to let their imagines soar once again”, Creative Director Robyn Archer.

“What will remain the same are the universal questions that the original international competitors faced: what does a capital mean, of what should it consist, is it more than just a seat of government? Walter Burley Griffin’s winning designs responded clearly to these challenges.”

Architects, designers, students and politicians gathered at Canberra’s Black Mountain Tower for the launch, with attendees encouraged to take a ‘bird’s eye’ view of Canberra as it is today, before considering the landscape as it was 100 years ago.

Attendees witnessed the opening of an original 100 year old competition box - a meter long wooden box containing all items a prospective entrant needed a century ago to design the nation’s capital. The box was one of 725 competition kits sent worldwide in 1911 to entrants of the high profile competition.

Australian Institute of Architects National President Karl Fender said the competition offers an invaluable opportunity for members of the arts and architecture disciplines to develop creative, dynamic and energetic responses to the very real issue facing all Australians – how do we develop our urban spaces within the context of today’s challenges, including the imperatives of climate change, increasing densities, a highly urbanised population, as well as straining resources and infrastructure.

Mr Fender said: “As a hypothetical competition, CAPITheticAL opens a window to the future, and the potential for entries outlining new satellite-based cities to those on the ocean floor as entrants examine key issues facing built and unbuilt environments today.”

Stage one competition entries are due on 31 January 2012. Key dates follow. Entrants and interested parties can register for the competition at www.capithetical.com.au

Key Dates

May 2011 – CAPITheticAL competition launched in Canberra
January 2012 – Stage one submissions due
May 2012 – Short listed submissions announced
November 2012 – Stage two submissions due
March 2013 – Winners announced internationally

Centenary of Canberra
CAPITheticAL is a project of the 2013 Centenary of Canberra celebrations. The Centenary marks the 100th anniversary of the official naming of Canberra by Lady Denman (wife of the then Governor-General, Lord Denman) on 12 March 1913. The Centenary of Canberra unit of the ACT Government is planning a a year-long celebration of memorable activities and events to commemorate the Centenary of Canberra as the national capital of Australia.

Program highlights will be announced on 12 March 2011, Canberra 98th Birthday.

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