Canberra

Standard criticism of Canberra Why I like Canberra
Planned city Planned city
Politicians, public servants Politicians, public servants
“Lacks soul”* Lacks “soul”*
Modernist architecture Modernist architecture
Dagginess Dagginess
Boring Great bookstores**

*”soul” here is used as if it’s some quality of all other Australian cities; but as no Australian city can be said to have “soul” in the sense in which, say, New Orleans or Paris have it, this must be a special restricted sense of the term, perhaps denoting “ocean views”, “cynical nihilism” or “decaying infrastructure”

** admittedly, one of the bookstores I visited was in Berrima. But I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Berkelouw’s book barn is half-way to Canberra.

Books

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7 responses to “Canberra

  1. I found a lot to like about Canberra. The negative of the “planned city” aspect is the over-distant “town centres” model, which led to me commuting past acres of farmland every morning between Belconnen and Fyshwick, and wondering why I really needed that extra ten or fifteen minutes of travel.

    Earlier on, living in Torrens, I found a secondhand bookseller at Mawson Southlands that stocked the majority of the “SF Masterworks” range for $3 each, in “mint” condition. My type of bookstore.

    Canberra also has many good restaurants.

    “as no Australian city can be said to have “soul” in the sense in which, say, New Orleans or Paris have it”

    Meh! I’ve never been to New Orleans but if Paris has soul, it’s certainly not in the banlieux, or even anywhere past Porte de Pantin.

    There are some parts of Canberra where the cuboid concrete-block style of architecture, bemusing as it is initially, is finally deadening. The central avenue of Belconnen heading down to Lake Ginninderra, for example, is apocalyptic. You expect to see Wheelers down there preying on hapless travellers any time after dark.

    (on your related posts autogen: Canberra at night: a study in futuro-fascist architecture)

    What I do hate is the Canberra is a “hole” comments I constantly hear. As if it remotely resembled a hole, or holes were bad for that matter!

  2. “Meh! I’ve never been to New Orleans but if Paris has soul, it’s certainly not in the banlieux, or even anywhere past Porte de Pantin.”

    And I’ve been to neither; I just think it’s amusing that Australians dismiss Canberra as “soulless”, when soulful cities – whatever that means – are not exactly high on our list of priorities as a nation.

    It’s especially funny coming from Sydneysiders.

    And, yeah, even though I have a powerful taste for Brutalism, Belconnen gives me the creeps.

  3. But it has Clouston and Hall! and sex shops the size of aircraft hangars!

    Fyshwick would only count against Canberra if it were the only city in Australia which had an ugly industrial precinct.

    I’ll take Fyshwick over Mascot, or the stretch of Parramatta Road between Strathfield and Granville, any day of the week.

  4. Oh, exactement. Sorry for the ‘biguity: I consider Fyshwick one of Canberra’s many recommendations. I mean, really, what – a – name.

  5. Yes, and another great thing about Fyshwick I noticed last weekend: there’s that Canberra thing of naming streets after other Australian cities – so for eg. Sydney and Brisbane Avenues in Manuka.

    Fyshwick repeats this pattern, only it has streets named after industrial cities: Wollongong, Newcastle, Kembla, Whyalla, etc.

    Not to mention the marvellous Iron Knob St.

  6. Imagine living in Iron Knob. Imagine being me: almost went to Iron Knob, but missed the turn off. Imagine the Iron Knob Turnoff.

    The nomenclature of Canberra is marvellous. Some of it is so quaint (Captain Cook Dve springs to mind) and a lot is very weird.

    I’ll have to pay more attention to Belconnen in future.

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