Capital Culture—Exclusive Tours!

With more than 70 activities rolling out over nine days, it’s a tad tricky deciding what to do during the upcoming DESIGN Canberra festival (21 to 29 November). My advice is to study the program and map out a plan so you don’t miss anything that tickles your fancy. When I say map out a plan I mean it, remembering that most tours take place on specified days. Some are free and require no bookings, others are free but bookings are essential, and others are ticketed tours. So take an exclusive tour on the Tours of our Beautiful Cultural Capital! By Wendy Johnson.

The festival is divided into five segments, one of which is ‘Capital of Culture Tours’. See Canberra in a new light through eight exclusive guided tours of architectural and cultural landscape around the city, led by designers, architects and artists.

GMB05—GMB Architecture Canberra Airport Tour: View of Central Atrium. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

GMB05—GMB Architecture Canberra Airport Tour: View of Central Atrium. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

My bet is that one of the most popular will be the exclusive walking tour of the award-winning Canberra Airport. This free tour includes ‘airside’ facilities and operations not usually available to the general public. Wander through the magnificent central atrium, iconic entrance, landscaped courtyards and hear about the marvellous artwork. The tour is on 21 November and bookings are a must since it’s restricted to 20 people.

The pop-up Public Theatre, inspired by the design of the classic Greek Theatre, will bring life to Civic Square for two weeks as part of DESIGN Canberra. Lots will happen in this unique space, including The Public Talk: Conversations about our city by Cox Architecture (22 November). The future evolution of our city’s spaces and buildings—a topic close to the heart of many Canberrans—will be explored at this free gathering. This is your chance to discuss what will happen as your city grows, reaches towards the lake and undergo significant urban development. Bookings essential by 6 November.

Westside01—Cox Architecture Westside Acton Park Tour: Daytime Opening. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Westside01—Cox Architecture Westside Acton Park Tour: Daytime Opening. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Westside Acton Park—Australia’s first pop-up shipping container village—has drawn its share of praise and controversy. Get behind the scenes with Cox Architecture on this free walking tour (28 November) and learn about the development of Westside. After the tour, linger and enjoy market stalls and street food.

Civic from helicopter—Image by Cox Architecture

Civic from helicopter—Image by Cox Architecture

We all know that Canberra is one of the few cities in the world to be designed and built specifically for use as a national political capital. But how much to you know about the key architectural landmarks in the designed landscape, and the work of John Smith Murdoch and his contribution to the early vision? The free Designed Capital tour starts at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and concludes at the historic Hyatt Hotel Canberra (21 November and 22 November). And the National Portrait Gallery will host free 45-minute architectural walking tours throughout its public spaces (various times) during DESIGN Canberra.

Embassy of Sweden—Image courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden

Embassy of Sweden—Image courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden

A free guided tour and architectural lecture will be held at the Embassy of Sweden, which recently re-opened after extensive renovations by Guida Moseley Brown Architects. The restored Embassy (originally completed in 1951) shows the value and importance of heritage buildings. The tour is free and bookings essential.

If you’re fascinated by the world of horticulture you’ll appreciate the free Inside the Archives tour (21 November). Held at the National Archives of Australia, this is a rare change to explore the horticultural aspects of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin’s vision for Canberra. See the original plans drawn up by the Griffins, which show how sensitive they were to the physical features of the national capital site.

Archit-Schools06—Archi-SCHOOLS: Tuggeranong Introductory English Centre at the Wanniassa Hills Primary School by May & Russell Architects. Image: Kiernan May

Archit-Schools06—Archi-SCHOOLS: Tuggeranong Introductory English Centre at the Wanniassa Hills Primary School by May & Russell Architects. Image: Kiernan May

The ArchiSCHOOL tour, run by the Australian Institute of Architects on 28 November, is a rare opportunity to tour some of Canberra’s specialist education facilities. Learn about the design behind each facility and how they support educational outcomes. There’s a full-day bus tour ($45, including lunch) if you’d like to explore all four sites. Tours will be held by May and Russell Architects, Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn and Guida Moseley Brown Architects. You need to book in advance since numbers are limited.

For more information on Capital Culture Tours, including locations and times, explore the full festival program at http://designcanberrafestival.com.au/

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