West Basin Precinct Guidelines - Part Two: Site Context

Site Context

Site Location and Features

The West Basin precinct is centrally located in Canberra, and visually prominent from Commonwealth Avenue and across Lake Burley Griffin. Despite this central location it is un-developed.

The site has few buildings located on it. Currently there is a bike shed and associated small business and a small pier and boating facility. Much of the eastern edge is dominated by at grade asphalt car parks, surrounded by coppiced logs. There are no heritage or design language cues from the buildings or structures on the site.

The topography slopes gently down to the water's edge for most of the site, but with steeper sections around the western foreshore adjacent to the National Museum of Australia.

A pathway exists around the lake extending from under Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and connects to a tunnel under the Australian National University (ANU). This pathway splits on the western edge, and traverses up the slope to connect with Lawson Crescent and the National Museum beyond. There are other informal pathways across the grassland, which represent dominant movement patterns. There are a collection of trees along the water's edge that includes a variety of species, giving the site an informal landscape character.

West Basin Precinct and its proximity to surrounding areas

Map 1: West Basin precinct and its proximity to surrounding precincts

West Basin Precinct

The West Basin precinct is defined in the National Capital Plan. The extent of the precinct is illustrated in the adjacent image. The West Basin precinct includes the areas of the lake that would be reclaimed in development of this area. The precinct also includes recently developed areas of New Acton. While this document includes reference to this area, the focus of the guidelines is on the undeveloped sections of the West Basin precinct south of Parkes Way.

Surrounding Precincts

Diverse educational, civic, entertainment and historic precincts surround West Basin. To the north of the undeveloped sections of the precinct is New Acton - an intensive, mixed use, creative urban hub bounded by Edinburgh Avenue and London Circuit; to the west is Acton Peninsula with its important land uses and iconic buildings including the ANU, The National Museum of Australia, The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and further beyond to West Lake. To the east of the site is Commonwealth Avenue, flanked by Commonwealth Park and R.G. Menzies Walk which ultimately connects the site to Kings Avenue via the public pathway; to the south is Lake Burley Griffin and views to buildings in the Parliamentary Zone, including to Parliament House.

Roadways in and around West Basin create major barriers to access, and isolate it from its surroundings. Commonwealth Avenue to the East is an important historical and ceremonial route that forms an edge and frontage for West Basin. Parkes Way severs the site from the surrounding areas to the north; plans to bridge this road would help re-connect areas, but are infrastructure and cost intensive.

The public space is largely dominated by car parks, with the remainder simply configured parkland. Despite having significant appeal as a central lakeside location with beautiful views, the full potential of the public realm has not been realised.

Historical view lines and vistas help define the significance of the site within the layout of the city. Walter Burley Griffin defined the alignment of the edge of the lake in the original layout for Canberra ñ however; the current lake alignment is inconsistent with the original plan. Part of the site is located on the Water Axis, which is part of the historic geometry of the layout of Canberra. Future development on the site will be visible from nodal points including City Hill, Commonwealth Avenue, and developed areas of New Acton and Yarralumla.

Development of West Basin presents an opportunity to connect the surrounding precincts. It also provides an opportunity to re-frame this part of the city as a high quality public space and an attractive civic destination.

The distinctive design character of West Basin must harness the valued site specific features identified above, including the lakeside location, aspect from surrounding vantage points and connection to surrounding institutions and precincts.

Planning Policy

National Capital Plan

The National Capital Plan (the Plan) is the primary policy that guides the character of development at West Basin. The sections of the Plan that set out the urban design and planning requirements for West Basin are:

  • The West Basin Precinct is identified in the Plan as Figure 11 Central National Area West Basin. This includes areas north and south of Parkes Way and is shown in the precinct plan in this document
  • Section 1.4 West Basin  provides background, principles, polices and permitted land uses for the precinct
  • Land Use Policies describes permitted land uses for specific sites within the West Basin Precinct. These areas are identified as Land Use A,
  • Land Use B and Land Use C and Open Space/Waterfront Promenade
  • Appendix T.9 West Basin provides detailed design conditions for development within the West Basin precinct.

These West Basin Precinct Guidelines are supplementary to the Plan.

Urban Design Protocol

The Urban Design Protocol seeks to create productive sustainable and liveable places for people through leadership and the integration of urban design excellence'. The urban design protocol provides a framework that sets out the principles of good contemporary urban places. The NCA and the ACT Government are 'champions' of the protocol.

The protocol also includes a road user hierarchy, which prioritises designing for sustainable transport modes over that of cars.
The values expressed in the protocol underpin best practice in urban design, and help guide the recommendations for West Basin.

Design Review

All proposals will be subject to consideration by an independent design review panel. The panel's role is to offer impartial comment to inform the NCA's consideration of design proposals. The design review panel will offer objective advice based on professional judgement and an understanding of the principles of good design. The design review panel must endorse the development proposal prior to works approval by the NCA.

Proponents will be required to demonstrate to the NCA how issues raised in the design review process have been addressed.

Diagram 1: Principles of good urban places - This venn diagram shows the three principles of good urban places - productive, sustainable and liveable.

Diagram 1: Principles of good urban places