C. St. John David, M.S.E., Eng.

Launceston, Tasmania, The Examiner February 2, 1901

The text that follows appeared below a drawing showing a town plan. The author of this proposal was inspired by a provision in the newly­adopted Australian constitution leaving the location of the national capital to be determined by Parliament, specifying only that it be in the state of New South Wales and at least 100 miles from Sydney. David was the City Engineer of Launceston, Tasmania--the island that was one of the states in the new Australian Commonwealth. A few days after it was published in a local newspaper, he sent a copy of his plan and explanation to Prime Minister Edmund Barton. David evidently received a letter in reply, for a handwritten note on his letter reads "Acknowledge with thanks. Doubtless suggestions will be found of much value when question comes to be considered." This is dated 8 February 1901.
At a time when so many places in the parent state are bidding for the honour of being selected as the home of the future Federal Government, it might be well to point out that possibly neither of these towns possesses all the qualifications which are desirable, if not necessary, in a city which should be a model in every respect.

Most of the candidates owe their existence to local circumstances; either they are centres of farming districts, termini or junctions of railways, or primarily they were located so that a supply of fresh water was available for the early settlers. None of them were laid out with the view of any great extension, and all of them are largely in the hands of private owners.

Now, does the ordinary method of laying out a city in rectangles (such as were Melbourne and Adelaide) satisfy all requirements? In such case the principal buildings are generally scattered about without any regard to relative positions, sufficient land not being taken in the first instance. Is there a better method?

After the great fire of London in the seventeenth century, Sir Christopher Wren, one of the greatest architects that ever lived, proposed to remodel the central part of the city and build round St. Paul's Cathedral, making it the central feature, with streets radiating spider's­web fashion from it, and it is this idea which is now adopted, and the suggestion made that an entirely new city be laid out from the bare soil, if necessary.

There are many points to recommend the adoption of this "radial" plan; distances from any one point to another, save straight along a street, are less than in the rectangular plan; all main streets radiate from the principal buildings, which are thereby equally accessible from all parts; plenty of open spaces can be provided, and all aspects may be obtained.

In the plan published herewith, to avoid crowding only the principal streets are shown, but minor streets for back entrances are indicated in one section only.

The central position marked A is suggested as the site of the Federal Houses of Parliament; on the blocks marked B should be erected departmental offices, museum, art gallery, town hall and municipal offices, public library, Customs house, theatre, etc., all equidistant from the surrounding parts; the letter C denotes open squares, with fountains, etc.

The business area of the city is shown one mile square, and the belt of public park round it at 10 chains wide. The main streets are 150ft. wide, with minor and cross streets 100ft. wide, while no right­of­way or lane to back entrances should be less than 30ft. wide. There is room for plenty of suitable trees to be grown in the main thoroughfares, and, of course, the squares and parks should be planted.

The situation of the railway station is indicated, though this would be governed by circumstances.

The residential area may extend indefinitely, but in laying out the suburbs the topographical features of the country would have to be considered.

Streets should be laid out and tunnels or subways under each constructed, carrying sewers, gas and water pipes, telegraph, telephone, and electric light wires, etc., before any permanent buildings are constructed; not a pole or a wire should be allowed above ground, save those carrying the actual lights.

The site should be selected with a gentle fall on all sides from the centre; it should be near coal and limestone measures, and should have a good and plentiful water supply, and get away from sewage. It should, if possible, be on the banks of a river, and could probably be laid out with the river running parallel to and alongside of the public park on one or more sides, but no sewage should under any circumstances be allowed to run into the river without treatment. Climate, of course, should be considered, as well as proximity to a deep water port.

But it is with reference to matters which are generally left to shift for themselves that regulations should be made and enforced from the very commencement, matters which a layman would probably consider of little moment, but which a city engineer or surveyor would point out are of considerable consequence in the satisfactory working of a town or city. For instance, no butchers' or fish­mongers shops should be allowed in the principal thoroughfares; a noxious trades area should at once be set apart in the suburbs; no "private crossings" should be allowed, but all entrances for vehicles should be in the rear--off the lanes or right­of­ways. A stringent Building Act should be adopted and enforced regulating the height and design of buildings as well as including the ordinary provisions. There are numerous other regulations which are necessary for the proper governing and comfort of the residents, which need not be set down here.

Of course it is possible that suitable territory may be found in one of the sites which have been suggested, and preference may be given to Bombala: but the land there is largely owned privately, and this is a magnificent opportunity for putting into practice the principle of state ownership of land. If this principle is adopted, here is the chance of the century; if no land is sold, but all is leased, the city should be entirely self­supporting, without rates or taxes of any kind, and there would be plenty of money to make it what we all wish to see--the model city of the world. . 

Selected, scanned, 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: 
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