A. J. Macdonald.
Cazaly's Contract Register, Supplement, August 15, 1912.

A native of Fitzroy, Victoria, Alexander James Macdonald (1864-1951) moved to Scotland with his mother after the death of his father. He was indentured to the Edinburgh architect Charles S. J. Johnston in 1883­87. By 1888 he had returned to Australia to work in Melbourne for architects T. J. Crouch and Smith and Johnson. With Philip Treeby he designed the Oriental Coffee Palace on Bay Street, Brighton in 1888.

The following year he began work as Assistant Architect (third Grade) for the eastern section of the Victoria Public Works Department. For the department he designed a number of public buildings, several in the Scottish Baronial/American Romanesque style. Among them are the court houses in Flemington, Cheltenham (demolished), Omeo, Euroa, and Bairnsdale, the acknowledged masterpiece. He also designed several post offices, including one at South Yarra, and police stations. In March, 1892 he presented a paper before the Architectural and Engineering Association on "Remarks on the Scottish Systems of Household Drainage and their Value as a Precedent." A month later he was elected an Associate of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, which would in 1916 elect him a Fellow.

In 1897 he left architecture to accept a position as Examiner of Patents and Trade Marks in the Victorian Law Department. Later, in 1904, Macdonald became Examiner in charge of Civil Engineering and Construction, Commonwealth Patent Office. It was while in that office that he submitted his design for the new Federal Capital.

Some modern scholars state that his design "was one of the eight final entries in the competition" (Petersen) or "He was one of the eight shortlisted in the Federal Capital competition," (Lewis). This claim is based on a statement in Cazaly's Contract Register: "Amongst the last eight designs from which the judges decided to make their final choice, we have elicited, was one submitted by a Melbourne competitor (No. 9)."

Macdonald met the winner of the competition, Walter Burley Griffin, when Griffin came to Australia in 1913, and Macdonald volunteered to serve as Griffin's assistant. Griffin's efforts to have him officially seconded to his office failed, although Macdonald did some further private work for Griffin when the American returned to the U.S. in preparation for his permanent move to Australia.

In 1918, Scientific Australian published Macdonald's Griffin­like design for a settlement scheme in the Victorian Mallee. This featured half of an octagonal street complex with the railway station as its center and--eight blocks away at the other end of a wide boulevard--another district composed of concentric semi­circles surrounding the "Civic, Commercial, and Technical School Centre." Six "Residential and Shopping Centres" provided focal points for as many neighborhoods.

Macdonald in 1920 proposed a plan for a civic center for Melbourne, a design published that September in the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Journal. John Sulman also took note of this proposal in his book published the following year, An Introduction to Town Planning in Australia. In 1923 Macdonald, then Chief Technical Officer for the Melbourne Metropolitan Town Planning Commission, prepared a proposal for a green belt around the growing metropolis

In response to the invitation of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the accompanying design for laying out the Federal Capital City is submitted for consideration, in terms of the Conditions of Competition issued to competitors on the 1st June, 1911.

The drawings include:-
(1) A design for the city, drawn on the map of contour survey, 400 feet to one inch, as required by clause 2 of the Conditions of Competition.

(2) A perspective view overlooking the administrative centre; part of the commercial and civic centres; a corner of the science and art centre; a portion of the park lands; a distant view of the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, with the residence of the Governor-General and the State House on their fringes.

The perspective view is taken from a station point near the railway bridge, and marked X, and from an altitude of 4000 feet above sea level.

(3) A series of cross and longitudinal sections of the malls, avenues, and main traffic thoroughfares. The scales employed were 400 feet horizontal and 100 feet vertical and 20 feet to one inch respectively.

(4) Enlarged drawings of the Central Railway Station, and types of blocks to scales of 200 feet to one inch, with a cross section of the Central Railway Station to a scale of 80 feet to one inch. The types of blocks are those throughout the city, with sun traps, each block being set forty-five degrees to the meridian, showing the influences of sunlight and solar shadows in every part of the city as designed.

(5) A sketch illustrating the theory of an outer circle railway, from which might radiate railway and main traffic roads carrying fast trams, to tap the hinterlands at every point of the compass.

(6) Longitudinal and cross sections of storm water channels, the main arteries being shown in green lines on the Map of Contour Survey Drawing No. I.

The geometrical plans and sections have been prepared to

scales based on the British standards of measurement.

The general design has been illustrated to allow of the parks, gardens, and bridges being clearly indicated, and the buildings scheduled on page 8 of the Conditions of Competition under the heading of

The outlines of and setting to the following buildings have been delineated in the subjoined numerical order:-

(1) The Residence of the Governor-General, occupying a stately and commanding situation.
(2) The Houses of the Parliaments, to which have been grouped around and in its proximity are:-

(3) The City Hall, 350 feet by 250 feet, situated in centre of garden block 800 feet by 750 feet. Chief eatures:--Completes vista of 200 feet wide; avenue from south-western suburbs, and of the 300 feet wide civic mall, with a view across the Great Lake to the industrial centre. Regulation of automobile (fast) and pedestrian (slow) traffic to its four entrances.
(4) The State House.--Ecclesiastical in art, with chapels for denominations. Designed to be the repository of memorials to Australia's illustrious dead..
(5) The University and Affiliated Colleges, including Library, Engineering School, Medical School, in proximity to Infirmary, Women's College, and Denominational Institutions.
(6) The National Theatre occupies the summit of a hill, and completes another vista. Its setting is portrayed clearly in that perspective.
(7) The Public Library occupies the summit of Stoney Hill No. 1. It completes a vista looking north from Parliament House, and has a commanding position in the foreground of the city proper. It is approachable from four sides.
(8) The Museum occupies the summit of another hill, and has a commanding position in the foreground of the city proper. It is approachable from four sides.
(9) The National Gallery occupies the summit of Stoney Hill No. 2, and is approachable from four sides, the approach from the circular lake being worthy of an art centre.
(10) The Gallery of indigenous Art flanks the National Gallery on another rise to the north-west.
(11) The National Sculpture Gallery flanks the National Gallery on an eminence to the south-east.
(12) The Technical Colleges occupy another rise to the east of the National Gallery.
(13) Kurrajong; or, The Trail of National Glory.--The State House might be dedicated to the individual. Kurrajong, it is suggested, might be reserved as The Hill of National Glory. Sentiment has been likened to the mortar that binds. Great national deeds might be commemorated in stone on the steep slopes of Kurrajong. Upon its summit has been placed a great clock tower, visible for miles, and flanked with shelters for the people, whilst grouped around, to suit the contour are the sites for the national monuments.
(14) Residence of the Prime Minister is located near the entrance to the city and at the foot of the Administrative mall. Its front overlooks the public gardens, with the buildings of the art centre in the near distance and the Black Mountains as a background.
(15) The National Hotel and the National Coffee Palace are located opposite the Central Railway Station
(16) The Central Railway Station and Railway Marshalling Yards--(These are dealt with at-some length hereafter.)
(17) The General Post Office occupies a central position, and may be directly connected to the Central Railway Station by a tunnel, admitting of the mails being discharged from and delivered direct into the mail van, detached from the train for that purpose.
(No. 3 drawing clearly illustrates how the whole city may be commanded by underground traction without disturbing a single building.)
(18) Criminal and Police Courts occupy an eminence, and complete the vista of the cross street, the setting of the Courts being a fac-simile of that of the National Theater.
(19) The Courts of Justice, or the central seat of the High Court, occupies a commanding position, and completes the vista of the Commercial Mall.
(20) The Markets have direct connection with the Goods Sheds in the Railway Marshalling Yards.
(21) The Gas Works have direct connection with the Railway Marshalling Yards.
(22) The Central Tramway Carriage Depot, for 250 cars, with abundance of room for expansion. Branch Depots would be provided as required. Provision has been made for connecting the Depot directly with the Railway system, as it is recommended that the same gauge should be used for railway cars and street trams. It is recognized that electricity must soon completely supersede steam as the chief motive power.
(23) The Central Power Station has an area allotted of 80,000 square feet, with ample coal and water facilities. and abundance of room for extension.
(24) Infirmary, well isolated. (A surgical branch might be located near the Central Railway Station, for reception and attention of urgent accident cases.)
(25) Agricultural Show Ground and General Recreation Reserve.--Branch line from railway into show ground.
(26) Suburban Railway Station, sunk to admit of bridges for overhead traffic, with ramps for the platforms, on the same principle as the Central Railway Station.
(27) Industrial Hall and Exchanges. --As it is understood that the manufacture of military equipment and other productions is to be encouraged, and as the site of the city is the centre of a great wool producing territory, provision has been made for areas for the manufacturer and storeman, many of which could be directly connected with the railway system, the railway lines being continued through the warehouses from the Marshalling Yard, situated north of the suburban station. The Government factories would be situated near this centre.
(28) Hospital, on hill summit, with all its units lying 45 degrees to the meridian.
(29) Enclosed Sports Reserve.
(30) Stadium.--There is abundance of land here to develop this area on the lines of Shepherd's Bush, London.

The foregoing include allotment of sites for the buildings enumerated under "Requirements " in the Conditions of Competition.

Experience dictates that a Military Barracks and a Gaol are not fit institutions to be located in the dense centres of population. It is suggested that sites for both these institutions should be near the Rifle Range, located on the further slopes of Mount Ainslie (see No. 5 Drawing), or a site near the military encampment grounds and Field Artillery Range.

In addition to the foregoing, areas have been allotted for ecclesiastical, commercial, residential, and industrial purposes.

The city has been divided into Departments, thus:-

1. Administrative Centre.
2. Civic Centre.
3. Commercial Centre.
4. Science and Art Centre.
5. Industrial Centre.
6. Recreation Grounds. (The whole of the foreshore of the Great Lake and the hill tops being reserved for the people.

The proposed route from Yass to Queanbeyan, shown on Contour Plans, has been slightly modified to obtain, principally, a straight run into stations.

The street system provides for inter-communication between the centres of activity and between the distant parts of the city by means of the trolley car. It is recognized how important a part the trolley car has played in the development of the hinterlands of the world's great cities, and how it has aided in distributing population over vast areas for the good of mankind.

It is also admitted that the storage battery car, the petrol engine, and electric generator and motor are merely in their infancy, and that the day does not appear far distant when a tram-car will carry its own power. At any rate, the street system before you is adaptable to any of the recognized systems of electrical tramways.

Ornamental Water.
A great lake has been designed along the valley of the Molonglo, the "sea wall" of which follows approximately the contour of the flood of 1891, and the water impounded by means of a weir proposed to be constructed in the situation shown on No. 5 Drawing.

As indicated in "Requirement 8," regulating weirs would be constructed on the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers to control the flood waters and equalise the flow of the river and maintain a constant level behind any weir within or near the city site.

This Great Lake was designed to afford an object lesson to all who may enter the portals of the city of how readily any Australian valley could be converted into a reservoir for the conservation of the winter rains.

In a country two-thirds arid--for Australia is the most arid of the continents of the world--the conservation of water is the most vital of all questions, and is undoubtedly Australia's root problem, its greatest internal national question.

The last great drought, according to Senator McColl, meant a loss of £130,000. It reduced the flocks and herds by 50 per cent. It was a national calamity which can only be averted by the water tank and the silo.

If Australia were pagan, water would be worshipped as a deity; nothing was more reverential to the gods of the ancients than the storage of water.

The great expanse of the lake would offer varied facilities for aquatic recreation; whilst its foreshores, reserved for the people, would afford abundant opportunity for the skill of the landscape gardener. It would, too, form a way for motor boat communication from shore to shore and along its wide expanse.

Water Supply.
It is noted that the head of water from the Service Reservoir will supply all areas below the 2150 feet level. A supplementary reservoir has been placed on the summit of Red Hill, designed to contain about 8 millions of gallons, obtained by pumping. Its primary object is to augment the service supply for fire extinguishing purposes, and incidentally to provide a water supply for the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum on the slopes of Red Hill. It might be found advisable to place a service reservoir on Red Hill.

The streets have been designed to facilitate the rapid development of a sewage system along the lines of natural flow.

Storm, Water.
The design indicates (No. 1 Drawing) a scheme for the interception and disposal of the storm water discharging within the city area. The main arteries are indicated by green lines on No. 1 Drawing.

The storm water sewers have been calculated by the BerkleyZiegier formulae, and a maximum rainfall of 3 inches per hour has been assumed.

The mains are as tabulated.



    Area in Acres

    of Sewers at
    Civic Centre
    Two--12 feet
    Commercial Centre
    Two--10 feet
    Science and Art Centre
    One--11 feet
    Industrial Centre
    Two--11 feet
    Time of Year
    December 22
    Jan. 19, Nov. 24
    Feb. 19, Oct. 24
    March 21, Sept. 23
    April 21, Aug. 23
    May 22, July 23
    June 22