[US to Australia 2013] Donovan Dela Cruz on the intersection of public space and natural beauty
To describe Australia’s landscape as beautiful and diverse– and being from Hawaii I know beautiful and diverse when I see it—would be a huge understatement. But what is unique about Australia is its commitment to ensure a modern infrastructure and an attractive built environment serve to equal and complement its natural beauty.
In the capital of Canberra, the Parliament Building stands out like a piece of living artwork. Across the way is the War Memorial that pays tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers, with the Old Parliament separating the two buildings. The design works hand-in-hand with the location to add thoughtful meaning to an already significant public space.
In Perth, the culture of constructing beautiful public buildings is more recent, beginning with the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. The materials, colors, and textures all contribute in creating a modern art feel. The beautifully designed building is Perth’s newest asset that contributes to creating a modern city where people want to live, work and play.
But that is just the beginning. At a meeting with Western Australia’s Minister of Planning and Culture and the Arts at the Theatre, the Minister presented a harbor redevelopment project that depicted a mixed-use complex that will enhance and update the Perth harbor with commercial space, retail operations, housing, walking trails, and open and green spaces. Although the development will become a destination by itself, it is just one of many redevelopment projects simultaneously being planned and constructed within the Perth city boundaries.
And in the town of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, the Mayor, Councilmembers, and Chief Executive Officer told us their specific goals to ensure that Kalgoorlie is competitive and relevant, all while providing a superior quality of life to its residents. They know that if young adults and families are going stay, Kalgoorlie will have to change from a town known for something other than mining. The first of many investments has already been made with the development of the Kalgoorlie Golf Course, but local leaders also plan to construct a world class sports complex, and to reconstruct the historic store fronts along the Main Street—all while working to maintain a unique local sense of place.
I was awed by Australia’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty, enhancing its people’s spirit and their quality of life, and investing to create attractive and desirable cities and towns. It will be exciting to watch the evolution continue.
Donovan Dela Cruz is a State Senator from Hawaii.