Outdoor Lighting Policy - Part One: Urban context

A night time photo of Lake Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Bridge, Acton and Regatta Point.
A night time photo of Lake Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Bridge, Acton and Regatta Point.

Griffins' Plan

The Griffins' formally adopted plan for Australia's National Capital has produced a unique planned city form. Today, the main elements of this plan are recognised as:

  • the use of topography as an integral design feature and as a setting
  • a symbolic hierarchy of land uses designed to reflect the order and functions of democratic government
  • a geometric plan with the central triangle formed by grand avenues terminating at Capital Hill, the symbolic centre of the nation
  • a system of urban centres.

As the city develops, it is important that the integrity of these planned elements are preserved and enhanced. The design and effect of outdoor lighting installations are a vital consideration in fostering the experience of the city and its plan for all who visit.

Urban design

Lighting affects the integrity and quality of the city's urban design at many scales and perspectives. At night, lighting reinforces the unique design of the city and hierarchy of its symbolic elements. The differentiation and expression of key elements through night time illumination, is an important aspect of how people connect to and understand the city at night. The brightness, colour, height and type of lighting can all reinforce the meaning and character of these elements.


Since the selection of the site for the National Capital, the city's identity has been inextricably tied to its landscape. At night, our understanding and appreciation of the role that landscape plays in establishing Canberra's setting and character, is conveyed by the distribution of artificial light over the various landscape forms, features and elements.


A significant proportion of the land within the Designated Areas of the Plan has heritage values. These values include natural, Indigenous, historic and cultural heritage and are embodied within the city's urban structure, its built form and its landscape. Lighting has the potential to impact these heritage values through its design and/or performance.

Strategies and requirements

Strategy 1a) Express the key geometric elements of the Griffins' formally adopted plan for the city through lighting design and distribution.

Design requirements:

  1. Emphasise the three node points of the Griffins' National Triangle by creating and maintaining strong visual 'anchors' at Parliament House, City Hill and Russell.
  2. Create a unique identity for the roads that form the Griffins' National Triangle, being Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues, through careful selection and installation of an integrated suite of street furniture and lighting. Achieve a high degree of uniformity in lighting performance on these three main avenues.
  3. Illuminate the Griffins' Land Axis by retaining the existing Anzac Parade street lighting and illumination of Federation Mall.
  4. Reinforce the Griffins' Water Axis by illuminating the promenade along the southern foreshore, Commonwealth Place and the International Flag Display.
  5. Use full cut-off light fittings in all landscape areas, roads, paths and car parks within the Central National Area (except where noted in this policy).
  6. Use full cut-off street and pedestrian lighting on all main avenues that contributes to their development as high quality landscape boulevards.
  7. Align lighting hardware to strengthen the framing of the National Triangle, main avenues and formally landscaped open spaces.

Strategy 1b) Create a clear hierarchy of built environment illumination in central Canberra.

Design requirements:

  1. Illuminate the exterior of key built elements to reflect their relationship to Griffin's National Triangle and their symbolic function, according to the following comparative luminance values in candela per square metre (cd/m2):

Level One (20 cd/m2)

Parliament House

Level Two (15cd/m2)

Old Parliament House
Australian War Memorial
National Carillon
Captain Cook Memorial Jet
City Hill Flag Pole
Australian-American Memorial

Level Three (10cd/m2)

City Hill Precinct landmark buildings (RL617)
Russell Offices
National Library of Australia
National Science and Technology Centre
High Court of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
National Portrait Gallery
Anzac Park East and West portal buildings
Commonwealth Place

Level Four (5cd/m2)

East and West Block Offices
John Gorton Building
Treasury Building
Commonwealth and Kings Avenue bridge parapets
Canadian Flag Pole
All other buildings adjacent to Constitution Avenue, Parkes Way or Lake Burley Griffin West Basin.

  1. Create a dramatic backdrop by restricting the use of external lighting for other buildings within City Hill Precinct, Parkes, Reid, Campbell and Russell to entrances, window displays and signage. Consideration will be given to additional building lighting where it contributes to identity, legibility, silhouette, architectural expression, façade articulation and Canberra's unique skyline at night.
  2. Use full cut-off light fittings for new building façade lighting installations, that are carefully integrated into the building's structure.
  3. Minimise any sources of light spill or glare throughout Commonwealth Park, Kings Park, Rond Terrace, Black Mountain Peninsula, Yarralumla Bay, Weston Park, Grevillea Park, Yarramundi Reach, Acton Peninsula and Kingston Foreshore.
  4. Minimise any sources of light spill or glare beyond the intended area to be lit.

Indicative Lighting Plan: Urban Context

Strategy 1c) Maintain subtle illumination of the city's topography.

Design requirements:

  1. Consider identification of Red Hill and Mount Pleasant through the installation of a single light source, such as a navigational lighting beacon.
  2. Use full cut-off lighting of pedestrian pathways and landscape areas in proximity to the edge of Lake Burley Griffin around West, Central and East Basin, that effectively manages the unwanted effects of light spill on the lake ecosystem (unless otherwise noted in this policy).
  3. Use full cut-off lighting in all areas of the Inner Hills to control the effects of light spill.

Strategy 1d) Conserve significant heritage lighting fabric and design elements.

Design Requirements:

  1. Consider all relevant Heritage Management Plans in developing lighting designs.
  2. Retain the essential character and lighting performance characteristics of any existing lighting installation with identified heritage value, in any proposed maintenance or replacement activity.
  3. Preserve the appearance, location and layout of lighting installations with heritage value.
  4. Do not replicate or extend poor performing heritage lighting hardware into new areas or in new installations.