Saturday, April 30, 2011

Australian serviceman

Australian Serviceman (Ray Ewers, 1958, bronze cast 1959)

One of the statues in the Australian War Memorial grounds. The artist, Ray Ewers (born 1917, NSW) was an official war artist who served in the AIF in World War II.

Ewers did a lot of work for the Australian War Memorial, including dioramas and many smaller sculptures. If you're interested in his work, try searching the AWM's web site.

Friday, April 29, 2011

War - from another angle

An external view of the Australian War Memorial. You often see this building from the front, and it's a very angular, solid building from that direction. But from out here, in the grounds, it's softened by the green grass and the trees and hedges. There are many shaded, peaceful spots out here to contemplate just what this building represents, and there are some wonderful works of art as memorials to the people who sacrificed so much in various wars and battles. The one in the middle of this photo is the Sandakan memorial.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This is the Pool of Reflection at the Australian War Memorial. The Eternal Flame is at the far end of the pool, and reflected in the water is the Hall of Memory, which contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This image was also taken on ANZAC Day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ANZAC Day ceremony

This photograph was taken by a friend who attended this year's ANZAC Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. The mounted soldiers are wearing what I believe is the uniform of the WWI Light Horsemen, with slouch hats featuring the rising sun badge.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lone Pine

From the nearby plaque:
This tree grew from a pine cone collected by an Australian soldier at Lone Pine on Gallipoli. His own brother died in the attack there on 6 August 1915, and afterwards he found the cone on the branches used by the Turks as overhead cover for their trenches. He sent it to his mother, who in time presented the tree to the Memorial in honour of her own son and others who fell at Lone Pine.

The artist  Bertram Mackennal was so moved by the Australians' bravery and sacrifice on Gallipoli that he wanted to honour the Australians who fought there. His sculpture, War, portraying Bellona, a Roman goddess of war, was presented to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1920 as a tribute to the gallantry of the Australian soldiers in the First World War.

War [Bertram Mackennal, bronze]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lest we forget

Today is ANZAC Day, and it marks the 96th anniversary since the disastrous landing at Gallipoli, the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand soldiers in World War I.

Frank Augustus Beves joined the Australian Imperial Force on 22 September 1916. Born in Newtown, Sydney, he was 26 years and 8 months old when he enlisted. He worked as a fireman in civilian life, and lived at Camperdown with his wife, Ruby Florence Beves. Frank was 5' 9" tall, with fair hair and blue eyes. Having passed his medical, he was assigned to the 38th Battalion, 5th Reinforcements. He was shipped to England, and in April 1917, Private Beves was sent overseas to fight on the front line in France. Wounded in action later that year, he seems to have spent time in and out of hospital in England, and eventually came home to Australia in January 1919.  
[Information accessed from the National Archives of Australia online database]

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872–1918)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! We're off to do the family thing shortly, but thought I'd just slip in this photo taken yesterday at Bunnings (one of those big hardware warehouse-type places). We were there for a free kids' DIY workshop and an Easter egg hunt, and the kids were thrilled when the Easter Bunny turned up with free mini eggs. There's an awful lot of chocolate around at this time of year!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Gallery of Australia

This is the new entrance to the National Gallery of Australia, where I spent some time yesterday. I'm not too impressed by it, but it's certainly an improvement over the old entrance, which was half way along the building on the left hand side, and about 5 metres above ground level, accessed by a ramp or stairs. Not exactly a grand entrance for such a significant national building, especially compared with the High Court next door, which is approached via a wide ramp gently sloping up to a very high wall of glass, through which you can see into the building itself. Both buildings are described as 'Brutalist', being very stark and angular, and constructed largely of concrete and glass, and making them very recognisable as 1970s-early 1980s architecture.

The original plan for the whole section of lakefront between Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue bridges was a series of monumental buildings, linked by elevated walkways and a vast public square. There's certainly a number of important buildings (as well as the National Gallery and High Court, there's the more recent National Portrait Gallery, and further along the lakeside is the National Science and Technology Centre and the National Library of Australia. Behind these buildings is the original (temporary) Parliament House, and overlooking them all, on Capital Hill, is (new) Parliament House. But the rest of the plan was shelved in the mid-1970s, although some of the space has now been used as Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place. No grand public square though, to hold it all together.

The sculpture in front of the new entrance to the gallery is called Eran. It's by Thanakupi, of the Dhaynagwidh (Thainakuith) people of far north Queensland.

Eran (Thanakupi, 2010, aluminium)

Friday, April 22, 2011


Diamonds (Neil Dawson, 2002, aluminium extrusion and mesh painted with synthetic polymer
automotive paints, stainless steel fittings and cables)

This huge globe, by New Zealand sculptor Neil Dawson,  is suspended between the National Gallery of Australia and the High Court of Australia. Installed in 2002, it replaced an earlier work of Dawson's which was irreparably damaged in a severe windstorm in 1998.

I'm not sure exactly how big this work is, but to give you a better idea of scale, here's another photo I took today, looking in the opposite direction. The gallery is on the left:

National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place
Open 10am-5pm daily, except Christmas Day

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Appearances can deceive

This is another image from Mount Stromlo Observatory (see Monday's post). The building which housed the large reflector telescope looks ok from the outside, despite massive damage in the 2003 fires. But on the inside it's a very different story:

Although it's been cleaned up a bit, and is now used for storage, the strength of the inferno that passed through is very evident in the charred structures and telescope remains.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Read more books!

This is the new public library in the Gungahlin Town Centre. It's part of a larger complex including Gungahlin College (college in Canberra is the last two years of secondary school) and a Town Centre Park.

I think the coloured strips on the right are stop the glare through the glass wall. Alexander Bunyip (see yesterday's post) is just around to the left.

All it needs now is the books - if you look carefully, all those lovely new shelves are completely empty.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The monster that ate Canberra

This is Alexander Bunyip. In 1972, Alexander Bunyip came to Canberra - and saw wonderful things to eat, like Black Mountain Tower (that looked awfully like an ice cream sundae), the National Library (which looked like a giant iced birthday cake to a hungry bunyip) and Parliament House (a very large pizza).

Alexander Bunyip has been entertaining Australian children for nearly 40 years, occasionally updated to feature new prime ministers. Michael Salmon, who created Alexander, is a prolific children's author (among other things), and has written and illustrated something like 160 books. Although he was born in New Zealand, he's been here long enough for Australia to claim him.

If you'd like to read more about Alexander, someone has put together the story with a map. Worth a look :) The sculpture  - A is for Alexander, B is for Bunyip, C is for Canberra (2011) - is by Melbourne sculptor Anne Ross.

A is for Alexander, B is for Bunyip, C is for Canberra (2011)
Gungahlin Town Park
corner Hibberson and Gozzard Streets

Monday, April 18, 2011

Some of us are looking at the stars

In January 2003, Canberra was hit by huge bushfires which killed four people, injured nearly 500, and destroyed or damaged over 400 homes. On Saturday 18 January, I remember being at work at the National Museum of Australia and seeing the black cloud of smoke from the firestorm darkening the sky. While our home wasn't in the direct line of the worst of it, there were sparks and ashes flying overhead, we'd filled the gutters with water, and we had the most important things packed and ready to go if necessary. It was a frightening time, and must have been absolutely terrifying for those in the middle of it all.

One of the casualties of the fires was the Mt Stromlo Observatory. There had been an observatory on the site since 1911, but by 2003 there were a significant number of telescopes, workshops, residences and other buildings. This is part of what's left of one of them - the Yale-Columbia telescope building. The dome collapsed, and the telescope itself was destroyed, leaving just the walls and part of the concrete telescope support structure.

And yes, the sky really was that colour today!

As well as the ruins and newer working telescope facilities, the site has picnic facilities and a cafe (although it's closed on Mondays, so I can't report on that aspect).

Mt Stromlo Observatory
Mt Stromlo Road
Weston Creek
Ph: 6162 2388 (Scope Cafe)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Geometry in the capital

This is part of one of the sides of Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle. It extends from Parliament House along Kings Avenue and then to Mt Ainslie (behind me in this photo), across to City Hill, and back to Parliament House via Commonwealth Avenue.

Lake Burley Griffin is between where I was standing for this picture and Parliament House - not that you can see it with all the trees. The Parliament House flagpole is 81 metres high and weighs 220 tonnes. The flag itself is about the same size as the side of a double-decker bus.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is it art? Is it a vase?

It might be a bit of both, but mostly it's a seat, in the recently opened section of Westfield Belconnen Shopping Centre (Belconnen Mall to the locals). Somewhere to sit and use the free wifi while waiting for your Max Brenner chocolate fix. I can heartily recommend the Italian thick hot chocolate ...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Coptic Church

This is the St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church Canberra, located in the suburb of Kaleen.

'Coptic' refers to Egypt, and the Coptic church traces its lineage back to St Mark the Apostle, who went to Alexandria and founded the Christian church there. St Mark was considered the first in a line of 117 Popes of Alexandria.

This building was officially opened by the current Coptic Pope in 1991, and is in the Coptic architectural style, which, as I discovered in a Google search, is influenced by ancient Egyptian architecture, Graeco-Roman basilicas, Byzantine and Western European styles, and is often quite plain externally but with ornate decoration inside.

St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church
Corner Georgina Cr & Maribyrnong Ave
Kaleen ACT 2617

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Something fishy

Back to Belconnen Markets today, but no children in tow so no need to visit the Giant Mushroom. Instead, we had a late breakfast and then wandered around the fruit and vegetable shops, delicatessens, butchers and the fish shop. Salmon - yum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Commonwealth Bridge

This is Commonwealth Bridge, which forms part of the axis from the city centre to Parliament House (you can see the huge flagpole of Parliament House in the distance).

There was originally a ford across the Molonglo River, replaced by timber bridges from 1916 onwards. The current bridge (the fourth) was built to cross Lake Burley Griffin, even before the lake was filled, and opened to traffic in 1963.

This photo was taken a while ago, and on a much nicer day. It's been cold and windy again - a foretaste of the winter to come, I think!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Waiting in the rain

It's not always sunny in Canberra, and today was cold, windy, and (by evening) wet. This photo was taken from the relative warmth of the car at about 5.45pm while waiting for drama class at the Canberra Youth Theatre to finish.

The theatre group is based in the Gorman House Arts Centre, in Ainslie Avenue, Braddon, just a block over from Civic (the city centre). This is just one part of a complex of eight buildings, linked by covered walkways and central courtyards.

Gorman House was completed in 1925, and was originally a hostel for lower paid public servants. The hostel closed in 1972, and the buildings housed various government departments until 1981, when it was officially reopened as an arts centre. It now contains a diverse range of tenants, including theatre, dance and music groups, the ACT Writers Centre, The Embroiderers Guild ACT, the Sage Restaurant, and many individual artists' studios.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Campbell awnings

I was briefly in Campbell last week, and these coloured awnings at the local shops caught my eye.

Campbell is a suburb close to the city centre, tucked in behind the Defence-dominated Russell. It sits at the base of Mt Ainslie, and has a lot of military connections, being home to the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the Australian Defence Force Academy. Duntroon was the name of a property in this area (named after the ancestral home - Duntrune Castle - in Scotland) owned by Robert Campbell, for whom the suburb is named. The street name theme in Campbell is 'Military personnel'.

Personally, we just went there for the cold Vietnamese prawn rolls at the bakery ...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lights, camera, ACTION!

The entrance to the National Film and Sound Archive, Acton. The NFSA is housed in the former Institute of Anatomy, an Art Deco building completed in 1930. Look out for the stained glass platypus skylight and fabulous animal carvings throughout the building.

The collection contains over 1.6 million items (obviously not all of them on display!), including film and video recordings of television programs and cinema, audio recordings of radio, music and significant events, and various documents and other materials supporting the audiovisual collection. You can sit in an old-fashioned cinema and watch newsreels and movies, and wander through the exhibitions, many of which have a hands-on aspect so the kids enjoy it too.

The Australian Institute of Anatomy collection was given over to the National Museum of Australia, and includes 'wet' specimens of animal foetuses at various stages of development (always a big hit with kids!) and Phar Lap's heart.

National Film and Sound Archive
McCoy Circuit, Acton, Canberra
Toll free 1800 677 609
Open weekdays 9am-5pm
Weekends 10am-5pm
Entry is free of charge

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another gorgeous day in the nation's capital

Looking from Palmerville Heritage Park over to the suburb of Giralang.

Giralang is named for an Aboriginal word meaning star, and its street names are Aboriginal words for stars, astronomers and constellations seen from the southern hemisphere.

But today I just took this photo because of the sky - just beautiful!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Public art - Rhizome

This is Rhizome - a huge metal sculpture beside the Gungahlin Drive Extension at the Barton Highway turnoff.

It's big, it's expensive (in the vicinity of $750 000) and very controversial. It's been inspired by a clump of native grasses, and was designed by Richard Goodwin, who has been responsible for a number of highway artworks, among other projects.

Some say it's very appropriate, given the collapse of the bridge under construction as part of the duplication of the road in August last year.

* Yes, if you were here earlier, I did change the photo. Sorry about that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The sweet life

Afternoon tea at Ricardo's cafe in Jamison today. Lemon curd tart in the foreground, caramel praline mouse behind, and a strange hot dog eclair (an eclair pastry with a caramel glaze and filled with custard, topped with a red icing covered chocolate bar 'frankfurt' drizzled with red and yellow icing 'ketchup' and 'mustard'). Odd, but apparently irresistible if you're 7 years old.

Ricardo's always seems busy, with a wide clientele ranging from babies in prams to the elderly with walking frames. The cakes are divine, the coffee's good, and the meals are substantial. At 4.30pm the barista, who you can see in the background, was pretty flat out, as evidenced by the lineup of different types of coffee and hot chocolate on the bar.

Jamison is a Group Centre (like Kippax), and is situated in the suburb of Macquarie. It's named after a First Fleet surgeon, Thomas Jamison from Ireland, who became a prominent land owner, trader and government official. He also played a role in the Rum Rebellion which resulted in the overthrow of Governor Bligh.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The eagle

As part of our travels yesterday, we passed through the suburb of Russell. This eagle is at the top of a 73 metre high column - the Australian-American Memorial - located in a square at the front of the Russell Defence Offices, at the end of Kings Avenue.

The memorial was opened in 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II, and symbolises the ties between Australian and US military forces in World War II. It cost 100,000 pounds to build, of which 63,000 pounds was raised through a nation-wide appeal.

The 11 metre eagle and sphere sits on an octagonal aluminium column, sandblasted to look like stone. There are a series of ladders inside the column, but these are not accessible to the public.

Australian-American Memorial
Sir Thomas Blamey Square
Russell ACT 2600

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Afternoon by the lake

Yesterday, instead of coming straight home after school, we headed down to the lake for a while.

There are parks all round Lake Ginninderra* - this one is the Lake Ginninderra Western Foreshore District Park, off Joynton Smith Drive, Belconnen. The lake, like Lake Burley Griffin and others at Tuggeranong and Gungahlin, was created by damming a waterway and allowing the low-lying areas to fill. Lake Ginninderra was filled in 1974, and the areas around it have been developed since then, mostly for recreational purposes.

There's a boat ramp in the foreground of this photo, and this area of the lake is used for water sports (when it's not closed because of a blue-green algae outbreak). There are children's playgrounds at various points around the lake, barbecue and picnic areas, and walking and cycling tracks right round it. It can be quite busy on sunny weekends!

* Ginninderra comes from the Aboriginal name for the creek which flows through this area. The word apparently means 'sparkling or throwing out little rays of light'.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On the edge

You're never more than about 20 minutes' drive from the edge of the city when you're in Canberra.

This is the view over the roofs of Dunlop, a suburb in the West Belconnen area, towards the ACT border and into rural NSW. The suburb is less than 20 years old, and some estates in the suburb are much newer than that.

The blue hills that you can just glimpse near the roof on the left are part of the Brindabella Range - in the middle of winter they're sometimes dusted in snow, and a freezing wind can howl across the bare hills into this area. At the moment, though, the weather is pretty close to perfect. Warm and sunny during the day, cool at night, and with a brisk hint of autumn in the mornings. Although this photo was taken last September, it's pretty similar to what we're experiencing right now.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Rome may have Pasquino, but Kippax has this concrete noticeboard. It's not incredibly attractive, but it does mean that posters and notices and advertisements are stuck here rather than on poles and buildings. I haven't seen this sort of thing anywhere else, but I can't imagine it would be the only one in Canberra.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An apple a day

If you take a right turn off the Barton Highway, not far past the village of Hall on Canberra's outskirts, you might find yourself at an organic orchard called Loriendale. Today was the annual Apple Day at Loriendale, so we (and several hundred other Canberrans) decided to head out of town for a few hours.

The orchard was established by Owen and Noreen Pidgeon in 1982. My children were especially keen to visit as, up until her retirement at the end of last year, Noreen was the librarian at their school.

Apples aren't their only crop - they also have quinces, pears, hazelnuts, potatoes, stone fruits and tomatoes, and we saw some rows of strawberries hiding in there too. There are other berries in summer, bantam hens loose in the orchard, and sheep.

You can visit and buy their produce at other times of the year, but on Apple Day there are all sorts of things for sale, including fruit pies, fruit and potatoes. You can see apples pressed for fresh juice (and then buy the juice by the cup or bottle), sit on the lawn and be entertained by local musicians, and the kids had fun in the wire & hessian maze.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Public art - Kippax

I'm posting a little later than usual because I've been trying to find some information about this sculpture (with no luck so far).

We were at Kippax today to do some banking and go to the post office. Kippax isn't actually a suburb, it's a 'Group Centre'. Canberra's a bit different to many other cities: there are suburbs, each containing their small local shopping centre - perhaps a bakery, a professional office such as a doctor or dentist, a pharmacy, a takeaway, a small supermarket, etc. - and there are the Town Centres with their larger shopping malls, large libraries, colleges (in Canberra a college is for the last two years of secondary schooling), many more professional offices and so on. In between are the Group Centres, which service a group of surrounding suburbs. This is where you find most of the banks, post offices, larger supermarkets and specialist shops - the type of place you might do your weekly grocery shopping. Some of the Group Centres have their own names, distinct from the suburb they're actually located within, and that's the situation with Kippax. It's located within the suburb of Holt, but services most of West Belconnen (and the next step up is Belconnen Town Centre). Confused? It all makes perfect sense when you live here!

Anyway, this sculpture is located right next to Kippax Library, and there's some more of it at the other end of the building. I've no idea what it's called, but as all public art in the past decade or two is supposed to have a plaque with its details installed as the same time as the artwork, there's probably an explanation somewhere nearby. I'll go hunting next time I'm there and see what I can find.