West Basin Precinct Guidelines - Part Three: The Guidelines

The Guidelines

West Basin will become a vibrant waterfront precinct. The development will protect the public amenity of the lakefront, and extend its recreational role. West Basin will be a place for people to visit, live, work and play in the centre of Canberra. Contemporary architecture and high quality public space design will shape a distinctive precinct character.

The development layout will retain and improve the connection with Central Basin, and will create a new network of paths to Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding area. This will integrate West Basin with Civic, the ANU, major institutions and surrounding parkland. Development of this area will also realise features of the original plan for Canberra.

These guidelines are not intended to be a comprehensive manual on how to design a good place. Rather they reinforce the distinctive features that exist in the site and surrounds, and the spatial qualities necessary to make West Basin an attractive destination, and integrate it with the surrounding city form.

The natural features, surrounding institutions and location of the site are excellent starting points to design and build a distinctive, high quality waterfront precinct. The calibre of design proposals should reflect this opportunity. Accordingly, proposals for buildings and public spaces will be subject to the independent, expert design review as part of the Works Approval process.

The West Basin precinct will be integrated, distinctive, green and vibrant.


The development pathway and sequencing will evolve as further investigation into feasibility and constraints is undertaken. Significant work is being undertaken concurrently to assess how West Basin may be better connected to the city by bridging Parkes Way. If implemented this will dramatically change the perception of this precinct and its role in the city.

What is essential in the development process is that the design and construction of a continuous public pathway and waterfront promenade is the first priority. This will ensure that public access to the foreshore is maintained, the scene is set for a distinctive place with excellent design and that West Basin improves in its amenity and productive use from the outset of the development process. The waterfront must be designed and built to a very high standard as it will unify West Basin and to a large degree define its identity.

Themes and Objectives

The guidelines are organised under the following themes:

  • Heritage and Site Context
  • Integrated Structure and Movement
  • Land Use and Character
  • Built Form
  • Public Space and Landscape.

The following objectives describe the desirable outcomes for the design of the West Basin precinct in relation to each theme.

  1. Reflect the site's features, history and memory
  2. Integrate West Basin with the city and maintain a continuous public pathway on the waterfront
  3. Support a diverse and vibrant community
  4. Define a distinctive built character and design excellence
  5. Design high quality, public spaces and landscape.

Proposals will be assessed against these and the guidelines that support them below. Any application for Works Approval for West Basin must demonstrate how the proposal addresses these objectives and guidelines.

Theme 1 - Heritage & Site Context


Reflect the site's features, history and memory.


The National Capital Plan provides policy on:

  • Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) and protection of the lake water quality.
  • Land reclamation of sections of the lake.
  • Creation of a land bridge across Parkes Way.
  • Access to local heritage places.


This section highlights those valued features in the site and its context that will help define a unique local character.

The following guidelines supplement the policy above.

Map 2: Indicative lake reclamation - This diagram indicates the areas of Lake Burley Griffin within West Basin that will be reclaimed.

Map 2: Indicative lake reclamation

  • Reclaimed Lake Edge
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Lake edge reclamation

  • Reclaim the shape and alignment of the lake edge in accordance with the 1918 plan as shown in the National Capital Plan. Survey and accurately plot the alignment of the water axis and the 1918 lake edge for confirmation by the NCA. The reclamation area may include bonafide land as well as decked sections. See the lake reclamation diagram adjacent.
  • The balance of decked sections to bonafide land will be dependent on meeting accessibility provisions and must be solid, enduring and enable a high quality of public space and landscape.

Interpretation and design response

  • Demonstrate interpretation of the national and cultural significance of the site in the design response. Have regard to past investigations and planning documents for the site including Heritage Management Plans.
  • Demonstrate investigation into the stories, memories and history of the site and respect how this may inform its future use and importance.
  • Demonstrate through the design response that views to the lake foreshore from Acton Peninsula, Commonwealth Avenue Bridge are framed and complementary.
  • Respect the symbolic and historic importance of the water axis as identified on the original plan for Canberra, and have regard to other important views.
  • Utilise natural features such as the topography, and the lakeside frontage in the built form and the design of public spaces.
  • Investigate the value of existing flora and fauna and incorporate valued features into the future design of the area.
Map 3: Key Views - This diagram illustrates the lines of sight across the basin, from the basin to parliament house, from Parkes Way to the basin, and from commonwealth bridge to the basin.

Map 3: Key View

  • Wide Views
  • Framed Views
  • Water Axis

Theme 2 - Integrated Structure & Movement


Integrate West Basin with the city and maintain a continuous public pathway on the waterfront.


The National Capital Plan requires the following:

  • The width of the waterfront promenade will be 55m.
  • Relevant policies from Appendix T9 of the Plan include sections on the urban structure, reinforcing the main avenues, extending the city grid, lake reclamation and the land bridge, waterfront promenade, cycle ways and ferry, car parking and a road hierarchy.
  • Typical/indicative street cross sections.


This section identifies important spatial features and how the development layout and character will enable connection to the areas surrounding West Basin.

Diagram 3: Integrated Structure and Movement - This diagram illustrates the setbacks of the waterfront promenade, the street and the building frontages.

Diagram 3: Integrated Structure and Movement

The following guidelines supplement the policy above:

Public pathways

  • Provide a continuous, high quality public path on the waterfront of West Basin from the National Museum of Australia, around Acton Peninsula to R.G. Menzies Walk.
  • Design the waterfront pathway to seamlessly integrate into R.G Menzies Walk, at a minimum dimension of 4.5m, and preferably an unimpeded space of 10m wide.
  • Integrate new pathways into the wider public path network and into the series of spaces along the waterfront.
  • Design effective, direct connections to the surrounding destinations so that these facilities are accessible, and West Basin is meaningfully connected into all wider movement networks.
  • Provide multiple connections across Parkes Way, accessible to a full range of transport modes.
  • Provide a pathway design that is fully compliant with relevant Australian Standards and that prioritises pedestrians over all other users.
Map 3: Continious Public Path along Lake Burley Griffin Foreshore

Map 4: Continuous public path

  • Continuous Public Pathway

Waterfront promenade

The waterfront promenade will be the civic focus of the West Basin precinct and will be a high quality public space accessible to a range of users.

  • Create a 55m waterfront promenade, measured from the reclaimed lake edge (555.93 AHD) to the property boundary, and extend this along the waterfront.
  • Define a connected series of high quality public spaces along the waterfront that support a wide range of activities day and night. These may include both formal and informal places, with hard and soft landscaping, that will support small to large-scale gatherings. It may include features such as artworks, entertainment spaces, commemorative works, landscape features, gardens and recreation spaces.
  • Facilities provided within the waterfront should include those for all age groups and include play areas and equipment.
  • The 55m waterfront may include a shared space roadway, with limited car-parking and access provision, but allowing public transport, disabled access, and be located more than 40m from the lake edge. The shared space roadway shall be able to be temporarily closed for events.
  • Design the form and materiality of the reclaimed lake edge to enable accessible connection to different precincts.
  • No buildings shall be located within 10m of the lake edge. A pavilion/structure, that adds to the lake amenity, and is an enduring and high quality design may extend into the lake, but shall not interrupt the continuous public pathway on the waterfront.
  • Design a generous, designated cycle commuter route within the waterfront, but away from the lake edge, that meaningfully connects to surrounding pathways and minimises conflict with pedestrians. Design for very low speed vehicle access to the waterfront.
  • Provide public transport stops at a minimum of 400m apart on the waterfront, and group bike facilities at stops.
Map 5: Waterfront promenade - This diagram illustrates the indicative waterfront promenade in relation to the waterfront alignment in the 1918 plan.

Map 5: Waterfront promenade

  • 55m Waterfront promenade
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Accessible streets and spaces

  • Design the street layout as attractive public spaces, not just thoroughfares.
  • Define a street network that has a clear hierarchy where the design reflects the function and user priority. Include a variety of street types including laneways and shared spaces as well as primary and secondary streets.
  • Provide for a variety of transport modes with meaningful provision for cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and all levels of mobility on all streets.
  • Design for pedestrians crossing on all road types but especially on streets with heavy pedestrian use.
  • Prioritise pedestrian movement over that of cars in laneways, minor and collector streets and public spaces.
  • Proposals will be measured and assessed against the road user hierarchy in the works approval process.

(Additional guidance on the design of street elements is contained in the public space and landscape section)

Map 6: Cyclepath network - This diagram sets out an indicative commuter bike network in relation to the indicative block layout.

Map 6: Cyclepath network

  • Street Network/Block Layout
  • Commuter Bike Networks
Map 7: Indicative development layout - This diagram shows the indicative development layhout in West Basin, highlighting the indicative block layout and the areas that will require reclamation.

Map 7: Indicative development layout

  • Areas Requiring Reclamation or Bridging
  • Indicative Block Layout
  • 55m Waterfront promenade
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Block and section layout

  • Design a layout that is inter-connected and aligns with the surrounding street network. Create multiple new connections/intersections and a choice of routes.
  • Design a layout that has moderately small blocks of between 80m and 100m, broken up mid-block by laneways or mews. The development layout should be ëfine grain' and comfortably support ëhuman scaled' activity. This roughly reflects the existing dimensions of the Sydney and Melbourne building's development blocks in Civic of 85m x 100m. See indicative development layout plan.
  • Orient streets roughly on a north south/east west alignment to allow solar access to public spaces.
  • Align centrelines of primary streets with landmarks such as City Hill, The National Museum of Australia, Parliament House and provide multiple focal points along the waterfront promenade.
  • The block and section layout should provide a framework for distinctive and robust architecture that allows for high quality internal spaces with sufficient light penetration and air circulation.
  • Use block and section layout, spaces and features to frame views to Lake Burley Griffin and identify opportunities for sculpture and public art at mid points and end points of view lines.
  • Do not block important views with kiosks or other structures within the waterfront.


  • Limit parking along the waterfront promenade to drop off only, and do not locate car parking spaces on key view lines.
  • Parking access and structures should not be located on primary public spaces and streets.
  • Reduce the impact of on street parking by accommodating parking within underground structures.

Theme 3 - Land Use & Character


Support a diverse and vibrant community.


  • The National Capital Plan identifies that particular land uses are permissible.
  • Land Uses as described in the National Capital Plan (section 1.4) will be applied.
  • Appendix T9 of the Plan describes a vibrant precinct character with a mixture of uses to support this.


Designs for West Basin must include a wide range of social, community, recreation, cultural and entertainment facilities.

West Basin will be a mixed use precinct that must include all the functions and facilities that support a vibrant community. A substantial population will eventually live in West Basin and facilities in and around the precinct must include schools, parks, playgrounds, meeting places, shops, health and financial services, libraries, cultural and senior citizens centres and publi