R. Henson Broadhurst, C.E.
Proceedings at the Congress of Engineers, Architects, Surveyors and Others Interested in the Building of the Federal Capital, Held in Melbourne, in May, 1901 (Melbourne: J.C. Stephens, Printer, 1901):14-17
Broadhurst delivered this paper at the Australian conference to discuss how a new federal capital should be located and designed. He introduced one matter that a fellow Australian, George Knibbs, elaborated on at a professional meeting later the same year. Broadhurst pointed to "the desirability of creating streets running at an angle of 45 degrees with the true merid[i]an; for...[w]hen the sun's rays are parallel to the course of such a street, he is too high above the horizon for his rays to dazzle the passengers, and during the course of the day he shines fully on to every side of a house built to face any street forming the angle indicated with the true meridian." A decade later when the time came to hold an international competition for the design of Australia's capital several entries featured just such a system of street planning.Each of the professions represented on the present Congress looks at the proposed creation of a new city for the Commonwealth Capital from a different point of view.
The surveyor, bearing in mind the trouble and litigation continually proceeding in the existing cities owing to the imperfections of the original surveys, proposes to himself, that, in the new city, the survey shall be accurate, and the marking permanent.
The municipal engineer, thinking of the cost of maintenance, the dust in summer, the mud in winter, and the difficulties of cleansing always, speculates on the possibility of designing a town in which the expense may be reduced to a minimum, while the comfort of the inhabitants is raised to the maximum.
It is in the hope of in some measure furthering these ends, that I am putting these few remarks before the Congress.
Other things being equal, the Federal Parliament, in making the selection of the site, should give the preference to one with suitable stone for building and roadmaking in its neighbourhood.
The site being chosen, the first operation should be to make a careful contour survey of the locality, so that the streets may be laid out at suitable gradients, and so as to carry off the surface water from the allotments.
When designing the streets, there are several points that I think should be borne in mind:--The first one is that long unbroken lines of street in the direction of prevailing winds are continually pervaded with clouds of dust, and should therefore be avoided even at considerable cost. Another is that there are two great disadvantages to streets running east and west, the first being that the high buildings on the north side throw a shadow across the street, and in winter this prevents the sun's rays from drying it satisfactorily; lightly constructed streets often suffering seriously on this account if subjected to any heavy traffic; the other being that passengers travelling eastwards in the early morning, and westwards in the evening, are dazzled by the sun's rays. A third point is being urged more and more earnestly by the authorities on sanitation, and that is the desirability of having sunshine in all the rooms of a dwelling house. It has been stated that sunlight is a certain destruction to the germs of consumption, and that as long as people continue to live in rooms, in which the sun's rays have free play for two hours during the day, they are absolutely safe from infection by that deadly disease.
All these considerations point to the desirability of creating streets running at an angle of 45 degrees with the true merid[i]an; for as the prevailing winds in Eastern Australia, where the capital will be situated, are north and south, they will never follow the course of a street running at these angles far enough to raise clouds of dust, such as we used to have in Melbourne, and still have in some of its suburbs. When the sun's rays are parallel to the course of such a street, he is too high above the horizon for his rays to dazzle the passengers, and during the course of the day he shines fully on to every side of a house built to face any street forming the angle indicated with the true meridian.
We now arrive at a point that it is desirable to consider what unit of measurement it is preferable to employ. In Melbourne we have been accustomed to indiscriminately use chains and links or feet and inches, while in other cities links only have been allowed. I would strongly condemn the indiscriminate use of two standards, and though it is more trouble to the surveyor, I would advocate the adoption of the foot in preference to the link, as so many of the public are accustomed to measure by feet.
The width of the streets is a point on which discussion may arise. Having recommended the foot as the standard of measurement, I would adopt 100 feet as the width of the streets; this, while leaving plenty room for an immense room for an immense traffic, is not too wide for pedestrians to cross from one side to the other, and permits a good view of the architectural features of the buildings abutting thereon.
In residential portions I would discountenance the construction of any lanes, as they more than double the expense of scavengering, every description of garbage is being continually thrown into them, which, if they did not exist, would be put into the rubbish bin; at the rear in business parts I would make lanes 20 feet wide, putting a restriction on the title to prevent them being used as frontages.
A minimum allotment must be fixed, as people, if given a free hand, will build on anything that the house will stand on, regardless of ventilation and everything else. The Victorian Health Act lays down 1650 square feet as a minimum, but to me this appears to be too small, it works out to 16 feet 6 inches x 100 feet. Now ventilation in a house built on a frontage of 16 feet 6 inches cannot be otherwise than defective. To my fancy an allotment of 25 feet x 125 feet is quite as small as should be permitted. This would allow for a single-fronted house and a cart entrance, the latter being a necessity owing to the absence of back lanes. With a minimum depth of 125 feet it will generally be possible to have the stable, if one is required, at a reasonable distance from the dwelling.
I would advocate a free use of encumbrances on titles to regulate the class of tenement to be erected in any particular locality, for it is only by this means that the grasping land holder can be restricted from a reckless disregard for his neighbour's welfare.
The distances between the streets will of course be fixed by the depth of the allotments; but the length of the blocks must be regulated by public convenience. I do not think that they should exceed six hundred or seven hundred feet.
Having settled all these preliminaries we are ready for the surveyor to commence the work of setting out the city on the ground. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, we are only too well acquainted with the trouble caused by bad surveying and defective marking, but in the new city such trouble should be absolutely unknown, as, owing to the improvement in the construction of surveying instruments, it should be quite possible to have the work done to a degree of accuracy, that for all practical purposes may be considered perfect. But to retain the original alignment through the course of years, or it may be centuries, is a matter that is not so easily overcome.
The manner I am in favour of is to create a small "square" at the intersections of the streets as shown on accompanying sketch and mark the intersection of the street centrelines as permanently as possible. The centre area could be made a garden, in some of them the point could be marked by a sun dial, the apex of the Gnomon marking the intersection, in others fountains could be constructed that would not interrupt the line of sight, the topmost point marking the intersection high above all possible obstructions caused by traffic. Other devices might be bandstands, or cabmen's shelters, in these the finial could be made to mark the intersection aloft, while a point could be fixed in the floor as well. In the earlier stages of the city, before the erection of such structures as suggested, the intersections could be marked by iron capped posts similar to those marking the intersections of Geodetic lines in this colony.
My intention when commencing to write was to restrict my remarks strictly to the setting out of the city, but I cannot forbear touching on one matter connected with the construction of the streets; that is to advocate the construction of tunnels under them, to carry all the water and gas mains, electric light and other wires, pneumatic tubes, etc. Owing to these multifarious services our streets are in a continuous state of upheaval, thereby interfering with the comfort of the citizen and increasing the cost of maintenance.
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