Town Planning Review

Shaping ‘the finest city region in the world’: Gordon Stephenson and Canberra's National Capital Development Commission 1960-73

Town Planning Review (2012), 83, (3), 355–376.

Abstract

Canberra, Australia's national capital city, was transformed through the 1960s from a straggling city beautiful on garden city lines, to a modern new city of international standing by the powerful National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), established in 1957. Gordon Stephenson first visited the city in 1954, became a consultant to the NCDC in 1960 and was appointed to the National Capital Planning Committee in 1967. His activities ranged across all scales - residential communities, town centres and the development of a long-term metropolitan planning strategy. Stephenson appears to be an underrated figure in the urban metamorphosis of Canberra through the 1960s. Drawing on a mix of extant primary and secondary sources, this paper sketches the extent of Stephenson's role and influence in Canberra.

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NCDC (NATIONAL CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION) (1965), The Future Canberra, Sydney, Angus and Robertson. Google Scholar

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RHYNEHART, B. (1995), A History of Charnwood, Charnwood, privately published. A History of Charnwood Google Scholar

SPARKE, E. (1988), Canberra 1954-1980, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service. Canberra 1954-1980 Google Scholar

STEIN, C. S. (1957), Toward New Towns for America, New York, Reinhold Publishing Corporation. Toward New Towns for America Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1954), ‘The Wrexham experiment: The Queen's Park South Estate’, Town Planning Review, 24, 271-95. ‘The Wrexham experiment: The Queen's Park South Estate’ Town Planning Review 24 271 95 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1962), The City Centre, Canberra, National Capital Development Commission. The City Centre Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1965), ‘Plans and principles’, Australian Planning Institute Journal, 3, 66-8. ‘Plans and principles’ Australian Planning Institute Journal 3 66 8 Google Scholar

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 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1985), ‘Architecture, town planning and civic design’, Town Planning Review, 56, 135-73. ‘Architecture, town planning and civic design’ Town Planning Review 56 135 73 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1990), ‘Obituary, Peter Harrison’, Australian Planner, 28, 47-50. ‘Obituary, Peter Harrison’ Australian Planner 28 47 50 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1992), On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design (ed. C. DeMarco), Fremantle South, Fremantle Arts Centre Press. On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G and HARRISON, P. (1963), ‘Long term planning for Canberra’, in Canberra 1963. Australian Planning Institute Convention along with the Planning Officers' Conference, Canberra Rex Hotel, 2-4 November, 1-6. ‘Long term planning for Canberra’ 1 6 Google Scholar

STOREY, K. (2010), Interview with Margaret Park, Canberra, 12 April. Interview with Margaret Park Google Scholar

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WEIRICK, J. (1990), Interview with Peter Harrison, Oral History transcript, Canberra, National Library of Australia. Interview with Peter Harrison, Oral History transcript Google Scholar

WRIGHT, B. (2000), Expectations of a Better World, Canberra, Royal Australian Planning Institute. Expectations of a Better World Google Scholar

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ACT PLANNING and LAND AUTHORITY (2004), The Canberra Spatial Plan, Canberra, ACTPLA. Google Scholar

ALEXANDER, I. and GRIEVE, S. (1997), ‘Modernist town planning and metropolitan planning: reflections from Gordon Stephenson’, Urban Policy and Research, 15, 225-33. ‘Modernist town planning and metropolitan planning: reflections from Gordon Stephenson’ Urban Policy and Research 15 225 33 Google Scholar

BINNING, B. (2010), Interview with Margaret Park, Canberra, 21 March. Interview with Margaret Park Google Scholar

BROWN, A. J. (1952), ‘Some notes on the plan of Canberra, federal capital of Australia’, Town Planning Review, 23, 163-5. ‘Some notes on the plan of Canberra, federal capital of Australia’ Town Planning Review 23 163 5 Google Scholar

CAMERON CHISHOLM and NICOL, STEPHENSON, G. and CLEMENT, J. R. (1970), Belconnen 20: Residential Community, ACT, National Capital Development Commission. Belconnen 20: Residential Community, ACT National Capital Development Commission Google Scholar

CANBERRA TIMES (1992), ‘Popular Wanniassa blessed with many amenities’, 1 November. Google Scholar

CARVER, H. (1962), Cities in the Suburbs, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. Cities in the Suburbs Google Scholar

CARVER, H. (1975), Compassionate Landscape, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. Compassionate Landscape Google Scholar

CHERRY, G. E. and PENNY, L. (1986), Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design, London, Mansell. Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design Google Scholar

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COLMAN, J. (1993), ‘The Liverpool connection’, in Freestone, R. (ed.), The Australian Planner, Sydney, University of New South Wales, pp. 59-69. The Australian Planner 59 69 Google Scholar

DEMARCO, C. (1993), ‘Gordon Stephenson: designing the great and the small’, Planning History, 15, 38-44. ‘Gordon Stephenson: designing the great and the small’ Planning History 15 38 44 Google Scholar

DEXTER, D. (1991), The ANU Campus, Canberra, Australian National University. The ANU Campus Google Scholar

FISCHER, K. F. (1984), Canberra: Myths and Models, Hamburg, Institute of Asian Affairs. Canberra: Myths and Models Google Scholar

FITZGERALD, C. (1992), Gordon Stephenson, Verbatim transcript of an interview, Oral History Ref. No. OH 2532, Perth, JS Battye Library of West Australian History. Gordon Stephenson, Verbatim transcript of an interview, Oral History Ref. No. OH 2532 Google Scholar

FORSYTH, A. (2005), Reforming Suburbia: The Planned Communities of Irvine, Columbia and The Woodlands, Berkeley, University of California Press. Reforming Suburbia: The Planned Communities of Irvine, Columbia and The Woodlands Google Scholar

FREESTONE, R. (1991), ‘Peter Harrison, the Y plan and corridor growth’, New Planner, 4, 4-5. ‘Peter Harrison, the Y plan and corridor growth’ New Planner 4 4 5 Google Scholar

FREESTONE, R. (1994), ‘Hans Westerman and planning for options’, in Freestone, R. (ed), Spirited Cities: Urban planning, Traffic and Environmental Management in the Nineties, Sydney, Federation Press, 1-13. Spirited Cities: Urban planning, Traffic and Environmental Management in the Nineties 1 13 Google Scholar

FREESTONE, R. (2010) ‘Gordon Stephenson and the long-term planning of Canberra’, Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrasts and Challenges: Proceedings of the 14th International Planning History Society Conference, Vol. 3, Turkey, Istanbul, July, 49-61. ‘Gordon Stephenson and the long-term planning of Canberra’ 3 49 61 Google Scholar

GILCHRIST, J. (1985a), ‘Woden-Weston Creek New Town’, MSci Architecture (Town Planning), University of Sydney. MSci Architecture (Town Planning) Google Scholar

GILCHRIST, J. (1985b), ‘Canberra Civic Centre’, Australian Planner, 23, 8-13. ‘Canberra Civic Centre’ Australian Planner 23 8 13 Google Scholar

GOLD, J. R. (2007), The Practice of Modernism: Modern Architects and Urban Transformation, 1954-1972, London, Routledge. The Practice of Modernism: Modern Architects and Urban Transformation, 1954-1972 Google Scholar

HARRISON, P. (1964), ‘Long-term planning for Canberra’, Australian Planning Institute Journal, 2, 263-6. ‘Long-term planning for Canberra’ Australian Planning Institute Journal 2 263 6 Google Scholar

HARRISON, P. (1968), ‘Approach to a metropolitan plan’, Architecture in Australia, 57, 630-4. ‘Approach to a metropolitan plan’ Architecture in Australia 57 630 4 Google Scholar

HOPPENFELD, M. (1967), ‘A sketch of the planning-building process for Columbia Maryland’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 33, 398-409. ‘A sketch of the planning-building process for Columbia Maryland’ Journal of the American Institute of Planners 33 398 409 Google Scholar

LARSEN, K. (2005), ‘Cities to come: Clarence Stein's postwar regionalism’, Journal of Planning History, 4, 33-51. ‘Cities to come: Clarence Stein's postwar regionalism’ Journal of Planning History 4 33 51 Google Scholar

LLEWELYN-DAVIES KINHILL (1977), Tuggeranong: The Views of Some Early Residents, Technical Paper No. 24, National Capital Development Commission. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

MCCOY, K. (1976), Landscape Planning for a New Australian Town, Amsterdam, Elsevier. Landscape Planning for a New Australian Town Google Scholar

MORISON, I. (2000), ‘The corridor city: planning for growth in the 1960s’, in Hamnett, S. and Freestone, R. (eds), The Australian Metropolis: A Planning History, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, pp. 113-30. The Australian Metropolis: A Planning History 113 30 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

NCDC (NATIONAL CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION) (1965), The Future Canberra, Sydney, Angus and Robertson. Google Scholar

NCDC (NATIONAL CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION) (1970), Tomorrow's Canberra: Planning for Growth and Change, Canberra, Australian National University Press. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

NORMAN, B. (1993), ‘Peter Harrison's early years in Canberra’, in Freestone, R. (ed), The Australian Planner, Sydney, University of New South Wales, pp. 223-9. The Australian Planner 223 9 Google Scholar

ODGERS, B. and KENT, B. (2010), ‘The way forward? Can Canberra's planners learn from Washington?’, Walter Burley Griffin Society, News Update, April, 53, 1-2. News Update 53 1 2 Google Scholar

OVERALL, J. (1995), Canberra: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Canberra, Federal Capital Press. Canberra: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Google Scholar

REID, P. (2002), Canberra Following Griffin: A Design History of Australia's National Capital, Canberra, National Archives of Australia. Canberra Following Griffin: A Design History of Australia's National Capital Google Scholar

RHYNEHART, B. (1995), A History of Charnwood, Charnwood, privately published. A History of Charnwood Google Scholar

SPARKE, E. (1988), Canberra 1954-1980, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service. Canberra 1954-1980 Google Scholar

STEIN, C. S. (1957), Toward New Towns for America, New York, Reinhold Publishing Corporation. Toward New Towns for America Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1954), ‘The Wrexham experiment: The Queen's Park South Estate’, Town Planning Review, 24, 271-95. ‘The Wrexham experiment: The Queen's Park South Estate’ Town Planning Review 24 271 95 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1962), The City Centre, Canberra, National Capital Development Commission. The City Centre Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1965), ‘Plans and principles’, Australian Planning Institute Journal, 3, 66-8. ‘Plans and principles’ Australian Planning Institute Journal 3 66 8 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1970), ‘Plans and planners’, Australian Journal of Science, 32, 278-85. ‘Plans and planners’ Australian Journal of Science 32 278 85 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1985), ‘Architecture, town planning and civic design’, Town Planning Review, 56, 135-73. ‘Architecture, town planning and civic design’ Town Planning Review 56 135 73 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1990), ‘Obituary, Peter Harrison’, Australian Planner, 28, 47-50. ‘Obituary, Peter Harrison’ Australian Planner 28 47 50 Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G (1992), On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design (ed. C. DeMarco), Fremantle South, Fremantle Arts Centre Press. On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G and HARRISON, P. (1963), ‘Long term planning for Canberra’, in Canberra 1963. Australian Planning Institute Convention along with the Planning Officers' Conference, Canberra Rex Hotel, 2-4 November, 1-6. ‘Long term planning for Canberra’ 1 6 Google Scholar

STOREY, K. (2010), Interview with Margaret Park, Canberra, 12 April. Interview with Margaret Park Google Scholar

TAYLOR, K. (2006), Canberra: City in the Landscape, Sydney, Halstead Press and the National Capital Authority. Canberra: City in the Landscape Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

WALL, A. (2006), Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, Barcelona, Actar. Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City Google Scholar

WEIRICK, J. (1990), Interview with Peter Harrison, Oral History transcript, Canberra, National Library of Australia. Interview with Peter Harrison, Oral History transcript Google Scholar

WRIGHT, B. (2000), Expectations of a Better World, Canberra, Royal Australian Planning Institute. Expectations of a Better World Google Scholar

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Author details

Freestone, Robert