Designed by British Architect Dame Sylvia Crowe, the 34.25hectare Commonwealth Park is a delightful area in which to walk and cycle, picnic and relax. It is the site of festivals, gatherings and of Floriade, Canberra’s annual celebration of spring which displays several million spring bulbs and plants.
Commonwealth Park is also a place of national significance, being part of the Griffin plan for Canberra, and was intended to be ‘a park for a nation.’ The plan originally included facilities for a stadium, theatre and opera, art galleries and museums, aquatic gardens that would include an aquarium, aviary and conservatory plus a swimming area and gymnasia. The concept was for Commonwealth Park to combine being a showpiece of horticulture and a park for the people.
Charles Weston, Officer-In-Charge, Afforestation Branch, was responsible for planting almost 800,000 trees in Canberra during the time of his appointment, 1913-1926, with a large number planted in Commonwealth Park.
Located on the northern side of Central Basin the backdrop of the lake is certainly stunning, and the park delivers a character of its own with the ever-changing scene of the beautiful trees. Weddings are a common sight in Commonwealth Park. There have been occasions when there have been so many at any one time that guests have tagged along to the wrong group!
Commonwealth Park boasts both exotic and native plants, water gardens and wonderful open spaces. My favourite part of the park is near Nerang Pool. Here is a wonderfully tranquil setting with plenty of shade and room for the kids to throw a frisbee. You can sit and really enjoy the birds, particularly the superb fairy wrens that busily dart about.
Located within Commonwealth Park, just down the path from Regatta Point is a time capsule, which was sealed in 1988 to be reopened in 2088. It contains gifts from local Canberrans for those who will be living here at that time. Inert gas has been added to preserve the items that include a number of watercolours of endangered plants, pictures and ideas of children from a local primary school, some memoirs from an elderly resident, plus a brief history and photos from ‘The Canberra Times’. Another really interesting article inside is a computer disc containing a sample of the Bicentennial history of Australia with all coding on the disc in electronic form, believed to be one of the first used in Australia at that time. It would be interesting to see how technology has changed by the time that disc is to be read.
In 1975 sculptor Bert Flugelman created a polished aluminium sculpture consisting of six tetrahedrons, which he buried within Commonwealth Park. He is reputed as saying that if he told people why he buried his artwork, “the whole point would be lost.” Flugelman’s distinctive style can also be seen in his artworks displayed in Melbourne, Adelaide (Seven tetrahedrons located in the Adelaide Festival Centre), and Sydney. Another work exhibited in Canberra (which is far from buried) can be found in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Australia. Titled ‘Cones’, this huge polished stainless steel mirror-surfaced geometrical sculpture is a fabulous addition to this outdoor setting.