SUGGESTED PLAN FOR A FEDERAL CAPITAL FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

Alfred Agache
Typescript, Australian Archives, Series A762

The third­prize design in the Canberra competition was awarded to Hubert­Donat­Alfred Agache (1875­1959).
In 1911-12 he lived and worked in Paris. Agache was born to wealth. His mother came from a family of German industrialists, and his father's family owned a large and prosperous textile enterprise in Lille. Agache's father, Auguste, chose not to enter the family business but to devote himself to enjoying and practicing the arts of painting and music in the French capital and at a second home at Bizy in the Eure. Young Alfred was himself trained as a musician, studying for a time with the French composer, Vincent d'Indy. Even as a child he enjoyed the luxury of foreign travel, was fluent in Germany as well as French, and had studied English in school. Agache received his training in Paris as an architect at the École des Beaux­Arts, supplemented by studies he regarded as equally important at the Collège Libre des Sciences Sociales. After a lecture tour abroad in 1903 he served as the head of the mission from the Musée Social at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, U.S.A. Agache then began a career dedicated to social reform with city planning as an important means to that end.

By 1910 he decided to open his own office, and the following year he joined a small group of like­minded professionals in founding the Société Française des Urbanistes which he served as secretary­general. In 1912 at the age of 37 when he won third prize for his Canberra plan he also won a prize for his plan for Dunkerque. Among his many articles and books, Agache wrote an influential study of how war­damaged cities should be rebuilt after World War I.

This is transcribed from a typescript translation of  the explanation submitted by Agache of his plan for the Australian Federal Capital. Agache submitted  his drawings and explanation  in the international competition of 1912 for what became the City of Canberra. The typescript is a document in the Australian Archives, Canberra, Australia. It is part of Series A762 which includes six other statements submitted by other competitors who either won prizes, were the choices of the minority judge, or were commended by the majority judges. Of the eight entries falling in this category, only the statement by Arthur Comey, second choice of the minority judge, is missing. It is possible that the transcripts were made with the intention of publishing them, perhaps with the lithographic versions of the eight top-ranked designs that were printed in 1913. A search in the Archives for information on this point in 1993 proved fruitless. The few additions in square brackets have been added for clarification. Also in square brackets are suggestions that the phrase translated in the typescript as "city garden" should read "garden city."
 

Description.
In the study of the present plan the author, inspired by various opinions voiced in the recent "town-planning congresses, has endeavoured to satisfy the many desiderata which appear to be required and admitted in so far as city hygiene is concerned.

The problem being to lay out a town on chosen grounds it should give satisfaction from three different standpoints

1. Utilitarian
2. Hygienic
3. Architecture and beauty.

1. THE UTILITARIAN STANDPOINT.
ASPECT OF THE GROUND The land chosen for the erection of the town presents according to the papers handed to competitors a slightly undulating appearance with, in parts, some hills standing out and, on the banks of the river a possibility of the land being flooded.

PROVISION AGAINST FLOOD Even though it had been considered to close in the river by means of high quays, or to regulate its course by means of locks, we have, nevertheless, supposed that, as the result of a cloudburst or an exceedingly prolonged period of rain, a flood might be feared, and for this reason gardens have been provided on both banks in all places marked as having been flooded by the high waters of 1891, so that should such an event occur the damage would be relatively slight, as it could not reach to the inhabited sections

Further, the system of drains would be arranged in such a manner that, in case of a storm bringing a sudden large flow of water those drains which were too full would act so as to empty into the river those quantities of water which could not be drained away by ordinary methods.

DIVISION OF THE TOWN INTO QUARTERS. The principle which we have followed in the general composition of the plans has been the division into quarters, each having its peculiar characteristics according to the class of occupation of its inhabitants. This is how we differentiate them in the first instance -

Palatial and Administrative Quarters
Commercial and Business Quarters
Industrial and Labouring Quarters
University Quarters
Residential Quarters
Game and Sport Quarters.

In each of these quarters will be found, naturally, according to the demand, all the necessary elements of social life - Churches, Schools, Markets, Police Stations, Gardens, Playgrounds, Theater, Museums, Libraries, etc.

POLITICAL QUARTER It is naturally round the political centre, which is its genuine reason d'etre, that the federal Capital of the Australian Commonwealth should gather its diverse elements. For this reason it is on a prominent hill, (Kurrajong, height 2007 ft) which is consequently visible from a great distance, that the different buildings which constitute and symbolise political action in the great Australian continent should rise like a modern Acropolis.

On Mount Kurrajong about the monument erected to the glory of the nation (which would be on the highest point of the mountain) one would then see groups forming an imposing ensemble:

The Two Chambers
The Eight Ministerial Departments
The Residence of the Premier and of
the Governor-General.

ADMINISTRATIVE QUARTER Monumental steps and winding roads connect this "Political Focus" with the more specially administrative quarter where in a large scope, treated from both the point of view of style and that of completeness one finds the Law Courts, State House, Mint, printing Offices, etc., while a little further off, towards the East, half-way between this spot and the railway station rises the Town Hall with its belfry.

COMMERCIAL QUARTER. The Railway Station, with the Post, Telegraph and Telephone Offices opposite it, form the centre of the Commercial quarter. Round about the Railway Station will be found the large novelty emporiums, the principal produce stores and central halls, etc

BUSINESS QUARTERS Near the Railway Station, but grouped round the exchange are built the different banks, and the whole of this quarter is built in blocks, with offices in all the buildings. Here we would find during the day a sort of business city always very busy, but practically abandoned at night.

INDUSTRIAL QUARTER AND CITY GARDEN [GARDEN CITY?] FOR SAME. Each of the quarters already mentioned being inspired by a concrete raison  d'etre, its character is generally defined by an edifice or a group of buildings directly in the centre of the quarter. Thus the political quarter centres round the two chambers; the administrative quarter round the State House; the commercial quarter round the Railway Station and the business quarter round the Exchange.

The industrial quarter, situated away in the West between the river and Kurrajong Hill, but beyond a park laid out on the land and extending in the direction of East to West, would be conceived in the form of a city garden [garden city?] fulfilling almost exactly the conditions desired by the English sociologist Howard.

This industrial quarter, situated not far from the factories, but in such a position that the smoke and odours could be of no inconvenience would have as centre of interest a large place called "The People's Place", traced out in the midst of gardens detained for the recreation of children, and here would be, forming a fine monumental group, on one side a great People's Palace set apart for public demonstration of syndical life; and on the other side a large circus-theatre for public Performances.

UNIVERSITY QUARTER Coming from Place Concordia and crossing the monumental bridge and the exhedra adjacent, one finds oneself in the University quarter. The University properly so-called with its various halls, rises on the sides of the hills looking to the East. It overlooks the University City Garden [Garden City?]. This garden [city?], extending over the slightly sloping ground at the foot of the hill presents, in the midst of luxuriant gardens and shady walks, a charming retreat which the professors and students would frequent to the great advantage of their studies.

A little further, on the other slope, the Botanical Garden offers an instructive promenade; a Museum and Hot Houses make it complete.

QUARTERS OF VILLAS [AND] HABITATION. While the political and administrative and centres and the business and commercial centres are clustered about the left bank of the river, we have supposed that the habitations, properly so-called are on the right bank. Except the city garden [garden city?] in the industrial quarters which, for reasons of convenience, is laid out on a bend of the river near the factories, the residential quarters are more towards the North, some (University residences) almost facing the Concordia Place, others (middle-class residences) near the Botanical Garden and others (mansions) a little further away, on the slope of the smiling hills which fill the horizon of the town in the far West.

PARKS AND GARDENS The quantity of space to be kept free in the town is very great. Being informed that a great part of the town, or rather of the land chosen for the city site is covered with trees or shrubs, it has been obligatory to respect, within limits compatible with a well-laid out scheme, the decoration of Nature. Also, the monuments which form the political centre properly so-called (Chambers, Departments of Ministry etc.) are surrounded with natural growth, a fact which has made us try to keep practically in the centre of the town a large public garden in the style of a promenade, no more or less than a large open-air reserve which will certainly be greatly appreciated by the people.

We have reserved about 22% of our space as open ground in the city. This amount will appear ample in comparison with European towns, of which London is the best catered for as regards parks, gardens and squares, and London possesses about 15% of free space, while Berlin has only 10% and Paris 4%.

A glance at the plan will suffice to give an insight into the judicious laying out of these parks and gardens which are for the most part provided in the places where there would be difficulty in erecting houses. Thus, right on the banks of the river, where floods might be feared, at any rate up to the time when the discharge of the river could be properly regulated, we have provided promenades.

EXHIBITION PARK Towards the West [i.e., East] we have made an exception by putting the Exhibition Park which would be a place of public recreation composed of light structures easily capable of being removed in case of necessity.

GAMES AND SPORTS Nothing has been overlooked as to the importance of games and sports. In the first instance, we have provided innumerable playgrounds for children particularly in the playgrounds in the industrial quarter. The students and the University bodies have their sports' grounds (Football, tennis, base ball) not far from the lecture halls and near their homes.

Lastly, towards the South-East, we find a very complete provision for everything appertaining to sport - Aviation field, with Aeronautic Institute and testing ground, race courses, bicycle grounds, automobile grounds, an oval for horse-racing, gymnasia pools, open-air theater, etc., etc.

BUILDINGS AND MONUMENTS We shall not enumerate all the different important buildings in the town, a glance at the plan will suffice to show that we have provided for everything that should belong to a big capital - Theatres, Concert Halls, Libraries, Museums, Places of Worship for all denominations, Lecture and Social Halls, Municipal Buildings, Schools, Railway Station, Etc., etc.

II. HYGIENIC STANDPOINT
FREE SPACES AND WOODED RESERVES. One thing to be taken into account to-day is the importance of open spaces for purposes of hygiene in a town. We have shown earlier how and to what extent we propose a judicious distribution of parks and gardens. It was not possible, in laying out the town properly, to conserve in their entirety the regions indicated on the chart as "timbered"; we have however, endeavoured to utilize a certain amount of them in the best interest of the community. It is thus that, if it has been necessary to sacrifice a certain number of trees to erect on different hills the Government buildings, and the various academies[,] verdant promenades and smiling gardens have been retained in their immediate vicinity.

DRAINAGE The question of drainage has been the subject or [i.e., of] a particular study. With the information that violent storms were to be feared, it was necessary to make it possible, should a storm occur, to get rid quickly of the torrents of water which, sweeping through the town, might cause great accidents. Also, the system of sewers, which is so devised that in ordinary cases, the waste waters are led off towards the lower portion of the town, where by modern processes they are converted into useful products, would be provided in certain places with overflow-weirs with automatic gates which, in case of flood, would discharge straight into the river.

THE ZONE PRINCIPLE We have supposed in our plan that a Municipal regulation would burden the construction of building in the capital with certain restrictions for the benefit of the community. Thus, in the centre of the city in the city proper reserved for commerce and business, buildings of several stories would be permitted. There would, however, be a maximum allowance of 75 or 100 feet which could, under no circumstances, be exceeded. A first zone would be thus determined.

In the second zone, concentric with the first and of a diameter to be determined, they would only allow half this height for the houses.

Finally, in the third zone, likewise concentric with the other two, the regulation height would be only one-third.

DISTRIBUTION OF HOSPITALS, BARRACKS, AND LUNATIC ASYLUMS
n the hills rising towards the East of the Town, and bordered by a terraced road which would follow a horizontal contour line we have placed a certain number of buildings which must of necessity be situated outside the thickly-settled portion of the city whilst remaining close to the city proper.

(a) A large lunatic asylum on the lines of the elaborated buildings of Steinhof (near Vienna, Austria) would be built in such a manner that the inmates, although enclosed ln an environment affording the most complete security would none the less be given the illusion of freedom, and in all cases a most extensive view of the surrounding country. A private sanatorium for nervous complaints would be established not far from here, ln an equally favorable situation

(b) A large barracks would be built on a neighbouring peak, according to most recent plans; in addition, a camp which we have marked on the plan could accommodate a complement of military forces.

(c) Finally, we have provided for a prison which should rise, formidable, but picturesque on the highest peak of all.

CEMETERY We have thought it advisable to retain the old cemetery, and to enlarge lt in proportion to the growth of the city. A crematory furnace would also be provided, and divided up into sections for burning the remains, according to the different persuasions.

III. Point of view of architecture and beauty.
MONUMENTAL ASPECT We have not [only?] considered in the study of this plan the practical utilization of the soil, conveniences to be offered to the inhabitants and the laws imposed by hygiene, but also the monumental aspect which a city destined to be the federal capital of a State of wide expanse and with a very promising future, should present.

Suppose a spectator situated at the very summit of the commemorative monument erected on Kurrajong Hill, in the centre of the political quarter, looking towards the town in a direction West-North-East at an angle of 45 degrees, his view would embrace a panorama which is well worthy of description.

THE PANORAMA Almost at his feet, to the right and to the left he would see the two chambers (Houses of Parliament) heavily and fully silhouetted, as befits the buildings which form the very reason of the city~s existence.

The eight Departments of the Ministry and the two Houses of Parliament constructed in a circle and on slightly sloping ground, conveniently served on their two faces by roads at different levels, seem to be grouped so as to render homage to, and to serve them.

Looking in a North-Western direction, our spectator would see lower down large flights of steps which provide for an appreciable difference of level, the superb "place" surrounded by different edifices, the main entrances of which would be all similarly provided. In the centre of the "place" the Court of Justice, with its squat gates, and facing this a Triumphal Arch inscribed in an Exhedra.

If, instead of descending in imagination, the grand avenue leading to the river and which by Concordia Place and Monumental Bridge connects with the University quarter, the spectator turns his gaze towards the right, following the avenue to the Railway Station, he will observe the picturesque silhouette of the City Hall with its belfry, and further off, almost imperceptible in profile, the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Theatre and the Concert Hall.

Further still, rising on the heights of the other side of the river the University buildings, the Museum.

His glance will be arrested, and rightly so by the collection of buildings, each reminiscent of the character of the quarter to which it belongs.

And now, if our observer turns his eyes more to the East, he will see in the foreground, the Cathedral with its imposing dome; ln the middle distance the Exchange with all its accompanying banks, the Central Halls [i.e. Market Buildings] with their iron guards, and lastly on the heights on the far horizon the isolated buildings of the modern hospital and the barracks which appear as so many brilliant patches among the green foliage.

Lastly, turning his eyes towards the right, he will overlook the sports' quarters, so happily situated on the plain; he will be able to follow the flights of airplanes and dirigibles as they come forth from the sheds; he will see in the distance the athlete of the stadium; will assist at regattas and contests which are being carried on on the river.

If now the spectator turns his eyes to the left the view will interest him no less.

Beyond the central park with its shady walks and refreshing cascades he will see not far away factories exhaling the atmosphere of work, the workmen's city with pretty villas nicely distributed amongst the gardens; he will see this people's area truly magnificent, dominated by the People's Palace with its Rotunda gates which will shelter syndical life in its many phases; he will see lawns reserved for play where labourers' children can enjoy themselves to their hearts' content and in perfect security.

Still ln this direction the horizon will provide him with an unexpected view of verdant hills, dotted here and there with mansions and middle-class homes, becomingly situated on country which has been carefully utilized as regards the slope.

And we have not mentioned the river, which runs through the centre of the city like a blue ribbon with its numerous bends and curves, it gives variety and life to the urban scene.

DESCRIPTIVE ENUMERATION
of the Plates relative to the Proposed Town.
PLANS. Plan No. 1 As the rules of the competition demanded that a plan study be furnished drawn on the map, we have been obliged to systematize our study in transferring it to the map aforesaid, in order that the Board might have before it our provision for the various inequalities of the land. We have also indicated on this map the laying out of drainage.

Plan No. II. The same plan on the same scale, but more extensive and minutely detailed

This plate forms the principal item of the competition as affording the opportunity of judging the entirety of the scheme.

Plans Nos. III & IV. In order not to load up the main plan with details which would render it illegible, we thought advisable to furnish two other plans on half the scale, one giving the details of city transport and the other those of division of the city into quarters.

Plan No. V. The author of the plan has also furnished a sketch of a perspective plan (which affords a general Bird's eye view); this is simply to show the detail in which the drawings have been made.

Plan No. VI. Having given great prominence to the sports' quarter, we thought necessary to give their arrangement on a detailed plan. From this it can be seen that nothing has been neglected in utilising to the full the opportunities of the place.

Plans Nos. VII & VIII. Two other detailed plans, (A. Plan of the People's Place; B. Plan of Place Concordia and Exhedra with Monumental Bridge) have also been drawn to double the scale of the large plans, to permit of easy location of the perspectives and details which we have provided elsewhere.

GENERAL VIEWS

Perspective 1. This perspective view of the entire town has been made from a point situated at the North West of the Federal Monument. Let us suppose an aeroplane flying over the country at a distance of 24,000 feet from this monument and at a height of 3,280 feet from the ground; then this is how its pilot would see the town.

Perspective II. The general view just mentioned being on too small a scale to be of any use as a detailed record, we have made a perspective of the political and administrative quarters which play an important role in the general composition. This second perspective has been taken from the point of view of an aviator at a distance four times nearer and four times lower than the preceding one.

Perspective III. We have thought worthy of interest to centre attention on the People's Place to show the general arrangements of the syndical Palace and of the large theatre circus - in relation to the Garden City.

Perspective IV. Finally a corresponding perspective will be found of the sports' quarter.

LONGITUDINAL SECTION AND DETAILS
This section permits of a systematized judgment being formed of the general arrangement of the administrative monuments which should give true character to a federal capital.

It is made on a scale four times that of the plan, viz:- 100 ft. to the inch; it extends from the federal monument to the monumental bridge passing the large "place" where is situated the Triumphal Arch.

N.B. As far as concerns style, we have thought it important to treat the administrative buildings in classical architecture; the University buildings in Gothic architecture and to utilize modern architecture for buildings such as the People's Palace, in accordance with the requirements of to-day.

SKETCHES. A certain number of sketches indicate the proposed styles for the buildings; we would direct particular attention to the federal monument intended to commemorate the foundation of the Capital.

ENUMERATION OF THE PUBLIC BUILDINGS.

POLITICAL QUARTER
A. Houses of Parliament.
B. Residence of Governor-General,
C. Residence of Prime Minister.

Public Offices as follows:-
D. The Department of the Prime Minister,
E. The Department of External Affairs,
F. The Attorney-General's Department,
G. The Department of Home Affairs,
H. The Department of the Treasury,
I. The Department of Trade and Customs,
J. The Department of Defence,
K. The Postmaster-General's Department,

ADMINISTRATIVE QUARTER.
Courts of Justice,
Criminal and Police Courts,
State Houses,
Triumphal Arch,
Mint,
Printing Offices,
City Hall and annexes,
Chamber of Commerce,
Social Museum.

BUSINESS QUARTER Central Railway Station
General Post Office,
Telephone and Telegraph Offices,
Stock Exchange,
National Bank,
Savings Bank,
Central Market.

PLACES OF PUBLIC WORSHIP
Cathedral,
Seminary,
Church Museum,
Bishop,
Churches and Chapels,
Masonic Temple.

QUARTER FOR INDUSTRIAL PURPOSES
People's Palace,
Theatre-Circus,
Markets,
Town Hall,
Technical Colleges,
Government Factories,
Central Power Station,
Gas Works,
Railway Marshalling-yards.

RESIDENTIAL QUARTER
Villas and cottages

UNIVERSITY QUARTER
Medicine
Fine Arts
Theology
Law

SPORTS AND PLAYGROUNDS, EXHIBITION PARK, OUT-OF DOOR ESTABLISHMENTS
Military Barracks,
Gaol,
Hospitals (Lunatic Asylum, Sanatorium, etc.)

PLACES OF GENERAL INTEREST
Opera House,
Concert Hall,
Library,
Museum of Fine Arts,
Public Baths,
Gymnasium,
Schools.

Note on the
DRAINAGE OF THE TOWN

It has been requested in the programme that provision for and study of drainage for the town throughout be made, the discharge of the sewers being accomplished by gravitation.

On the other hand, being informed that rainstorms occur occasionally ln the country, it was necessary to provide for a means of rapid discharge to meet such special cases.

The following is the solution by which we propose to satisfy this two-fold condition of the programme.

We have supposed at first two large intercepting drains, starting towards the top of the town and following the river along both banks; these intercepting drains would have a sufficient slope for the water to flow away naturally; but as is customary, flushing tanks arranged at the head would allow of the automatic scouring of the drains at fixed times.

In a general way, the sewage waters would flow from drain to drain into the intercepting drains which, joining down stream by a siphon, would discharge the residuary waters into a large basin where they would either be treated chemically or utilized in a sewage farm. But in case of a sudden rush caused by storm the overflow-weirs introduced at various points into the large intercepting drains would permit discharge into the river, thus avoiding the overtaxing of the drains.

The dimensions of the drains have been calculated with a wide margin; in this we have accepted the dimensions that the city of Paris has seen fit to adopt. It is to be expected naturally that the Australian capital will increase rapidly to notable proportions; it is therefore fitting, and particularly as far as the sewers are concerned to make provision on a sufficiently large scale right from the start.

The principal drains have been shown in thick lines on the design drawn on the contour map. We have only studied the principal mains (No. i, ii, and iii), so as not to burden and render illegible, the plan ln question. But we would be prepared, should the necessity arise to furnish details of all the sewers, street by street.

Notes on General Transport by Means of Tramways.
In accordance with the requirements of the programme demanding that the circulation of tramways in the town should be studied, we have added a plan on half scale giving an outline of the main lines of general transportation.

The principle on which we have gone, and one which is generally adopted to-day in new towns, is that of centralizing departures at a certain point of the town.

We have taken as our centre the Railway Station Place.

Two principal lines would serve, one the North and one the South of the town. Each would embrace two routes, one an inner and the other an outer; the service could then be organized in such a way that one carriage in three would serve the outer system.

Again, we have supposed in addition to these main lines, internal lines which would cut through the town in zig-zag, and hence their names of siz[i.e., zig]-zag lines

The cars serving the town proper would always come back to the point of departure, that is to say to the central station, without being obliged to change their direction, the lines being continuous. There would be then, for each route one system of tramways going in one direction and another series going in an opposite direction.

Only the suburban lines would have cars going back on the same route after having reached the terminus, and thus only provisionally. We say provisionally for the complete scheme should in our opinion, comprise connecting lines between terminal points that would allow, in every case, of a complete circuit being made.

On the plans themselves will be found references showing the routes served by the tramways lines with the nomenclature of the principal stations.

This question of the system of tramways has been carefully studied by us, and we think we have solved, for the particular case which has been placed before the competitors the problem of a rapid and practicable service in the Capital. 


 
Selected, transcribed, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: jwr2@cornell.edu 
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