Having visited the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre next door, this is a great place to get your bearings and learn something of the story of the national capital through a combination of audio-visual displays, films, photographs and artefacts prior to going out and exploring.
The Canberra “Sound and Light Show” with its scale model of central Canberra gives an excellent overview of the city’s layout and the location of all the main tourist sites. Also look out though the windows for an excellent view of the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin.
The exhibition outlines how Canberra was chosen as the site for the national capital on 8 October 1908 – yes it really was a compromise as the people of Melbourne and Sydney respectively could not stomach the other city being selection capital. An almost empty sheep paddock 300kms from Sydney and 600kms was chosen as the capital of Australia.
A competition was then launched to find someone to design a city. This was won by American architect, Walter Burley Griffin.
Today Canberra is recognised as one of the world’s greatest planned capital cities in the company of Washington DC, Ottawa, Brasilia and Milton Keynes. Ok, I’m joking about Milton Keynes – its is, of course, not the British capital and some would even argue it ranks far for one of the world’s greatest planned cities. I’ve not been there so I wont buy into the latter argument.
Prior to entering, or preferably on leaving – with your new found knowledge on Canberra, the National Capital Exhibition do pause for a minute or two to admire the Walter Burley Griffin Terrazzo (on the ground!) – a mosaic created by Australian artist David Humphries of Walter Burley Griffin’s 1912 prize winning design for Canberra.
Part of the building in which the Exhibition, the Visitors Centre and The Deck cafe are now located was originally built in 1963 as an observation point to allow people to watch the construction and filling of Lake Burley Griffin and Commonwealth Bridge.
Allow about 30 minutes for your overview.
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Closed public holidays except Australia Day and Canberra Day.
Admission Fee : Free
Address: Barrine Drive, Commonwealth Park
Directions: Barrine Drive off Commonwealth Avenue, Commonwealth Park.
Phone: (02) 6272 2902