Acton Waterfront Place Plan


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Acton Waterfront Place Plan

The City Renewal Authority’s Acton Waterfront Place Plan was released on 11 August 2020.

The place plan reaffirms the community’s vision for a new city lakeside destination as a place for all Canberrans.

To read the place plan click here.

Designed in consultation with the community and key stakeholders the place plan captures their updated needs and aspirations for the waterfront's public spaces, including a more than 40,000 square metres lakeside park.

The place plan proposes themes and principles for future development as well as identifying four different “destinations” as part of an integrated public space network.

The Acton Waterfront Place Plan will influence designs for future stages of work in coming years, starting with the lakeside public spaces.

The place plan considers “how” Acton Waterfront will be used and “who” will use it.west basin

Considered alongside the National Capital Plan, which firmly establishes the guidelines for “what” can be built “where”, the place plan describes the look and feel of Acton Waterfront and how the area will be experienced by people.


The Acton Waterfront Place Plan applies a best practice placemaking approach in creating a waterfront precinct that will be acclaimed for its design, sustainability and sense of community. It will be a precinct Canberrans will be proud of.

The place plan was developed taking account of nearly two decades of planning and consultations as well as a new community engagement process run by democracyCO, which included further workshops with community members and stakeholders.

The place plan envisages a place for all Canberrans. With new parks and public spaces for people being built to bring life to underutilised public land.

It will be a place with a green heart - with lots of trees and plants – but it will also have play and cultural spaces, dining and entertainment options, the flexibility to cater for both everyday uses and special events, and importantly, it will make great connections to the existing city centre.

It will respect the national significance of the location, with its important views, while also focusing on the human scale, ensuring that it is both a functional and comfortable place for people to spend time.

The place plan is consistent with the planning intentions set by the Commonwealth’s National Capital Plan and builds on the ACT Government’s 2013City to the Lake plan (Urban Strategy: Linking City Centre to the Lake, Hill Thalis) to reimagine the project with the priority on making great public spaces first.

The place plan considers and acknowledges the underlying project parameters and assumptions which have evolved since the completion of the earlier City to the Lake plan, including planning for Stage 2 of Canberra’s light rail network.

Consideration in further planning will also have to be given to the changed economic circumstances driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Importantly, the place plan establishes the “look and feel” of Acton Waterfront and explores how the place will be experienced by people. The quality of the experiences offered ranges from the everyday to the extraordinary. It prioritises the human scale, personal perceptions, community and individual participation in making a successful place.

The quality of built form, landscape and public spaces will be an integral part of this experience. The response to the themes and principles outlined in this place plan will permeate through the whole of the Acton Waterfront – from its architecture and public spaces right through to its daily use and activation.

artistic impression of waterfront


Place themes describe the character and experience of a place. These themes represent the key elements of a place that convey the meanings and values it provides.

The five place themes in the plan are:

Tale of two scales
  • Respecting the Griffin Legacy – a place that contributes to both the legacy plan and everyday lifetale of two scales
    • Scenic
    • Varied views to the lake and landmarks
    • Relaxed and peaceful feel
    • Big gestures and powerful landscapes with interesting details
    • Generous, open and coherent green spaces
    • Contrast of scales and heights in a low-rise setting
    • Fine grain that is welcoming and interesting
    • Festive and special
Garden city
  • Contemporary garden city – with nature-based solutions that reinforce the relationship between the place and the environment
    • A breathing point for the city
    • Relaxed and healthy
    • Access to nature
    • A place that matures and gets better over time
    • Ample greenery
    • Green streetscapes
    • Habitat for urban wildlife
    • Innovative green infrastructure
    • Responsible use of resources (including investigation of secondary water for irrigation)

contemporary garden city

Community space 
  • Community space – a resilient community makes a place resilient.
    • A family place
    • A friendly environment for children and elders
    • A village feel
    • Playful and lively
    • Relaxed and cosy
    • Healthy and active
    • Pleasant to walk around
    • Many free community activities
    • Connectedness and a sense of familiarity
    • Pride in and empowerment by one’s own community
    • A foreshore for people – with foreshore solutions that reinforce the relationships between people, place and the water

community space

Foreshore for people 
  • Foreshore for people – reinforcing the relationships between people, place and the water
    • Scenic water view
    • Living water
    • Tangible and interactive
    • Healthy
    • Lively and fun
    • Festive and activated
    • Peaceful and relaxed
    • Both natural and urban

foreshore for people

Connections as journeys 
  • Connections as journeys – combining physical and emotional experiences.
    • Walkable length
    • Comfortable and attractive
    • Shade and sun
    • Greenery
    • Seasonal change
    • Interesting things to see
    • Rhythm

connections as journeys


Place principles translate the place themes into a more tangible form of design guidance. Some of them may focus on the physical outcome of a place, others may relate to programs and governance.

The eight place principles of this project also focus on Acton Waterfront as a single precinct, rather than as a series of separate spaces.

Integrated foreshore

Integrated foreshore - a coherent precinct and continuous journey

  • A combination of a continuous high-quality boardwalk and public path along the foreshore.Integrated foreshore
  • A combination of formal/informal and natural/urban landscape settings within the foreshore zone.
  • Well maintained and irrigated lawn with trees and garden beds.
  • A series of vantage points for expansive views across the lake.
  • Diversity of spaces of different sizes, amenity and activity offerings.
  • Urban furniture throughout including seating, benches, picnic settings, shade structures, bins, bike racks and drink fountains.
  • A minimum 30 per cent tree canopy coverage across the site (in accordance with ACT Government Living Infrastructure Plan).
  • Site responsive public art, including performance.
  • Segregated path for cyclists.

Integrated foreshore examples

A thick edge

A thick edge - layered green infrastructure to protect and filter run-off and enhance habitats

  • A combination of a continuous high-quality boardwalk and public paths along the foreshore between the a thick edgeCommonwealth Avenue Bridge and the National Museum of Australia.
  • A combination of formal/informal and natural/urban landscape settings within the foreshore zone.
  • A waterfront maximised for public use, including flexible spaces to accommodate large events.
  • Well maintained and irrigated lawn with trees and garden beds.
  • Uses secondary water sources for irrigation.
  • A series of vantage points for expansive views across the lake.
  • Majority of the Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) infrastructure integrated into the streetscapes.
  • Urban furniture throughout including seating, benches, picnic settings, shade structures, bins, bike racks and drink fountains.
  • A minimum 30 per cent tree canopy coverage across the site (in accordance with ACT Government Living Infrastructure Plan).
  • Site responsive public art.
  • Segregated path for cyclists.

a thick edge examples

A thin edge

A thin edge - push and pull the edge to create different ways of interacting with the water.a thin edge

  • Consistent edge condition maintaining the formal arc of the Griffin plan.
  • An engaging waterfront experience (including spaces for dining and retail).
  • Launching facilities for boating.
  • Hire and storage facilities for recreational boats/kayaks/paddle boards etc.
  • A series of vantage points for expansive views across the lake.

thin edge examples

Living cultural landscape

Living cultural landscape - support Indigenous storytelling and cultural practices

  • Meaningful engagement with local First Nations people to identify Indigenous values of relevance and living cultural landscapeopportunities for recognition and conservation of their cultural heritage within the Acton Waterfront.
  • A combination of natural systems and green infrastructure interventions showcasing reconciliation and a commitment to reinstate the natural environment.
  • Cultural tourism, such as guided tours and activities.
  • Interpretation and signage.
  • Partnerships with institutions, local First Nations and multi-cultural groups.
  • Cultural exchange and education programs.
  • Inter-generational gathering spaces.
  • Plant materials that showcase and support traditional cultural practices.
  • Extension of the Living Cultural Landscape to the National Museum of Australia.

living cultural landscape examples

Enhanced legacy plan

Enhanced legacy plan - enhance Griffin Legacy by acknowledging spatial hierarchy, views and key axes enchanced legacy plan

  • An urban structure that reflects the wider radial city grid patterns and has a greater correlation with the NCP’s indicative urban structure.
  • Significant view corridors along Commonwealth Avenue to West Basin/Lake Burley Griffin.
  • An urban structure that frames views along streets through and to the lake from the city centre and Commonwealth Avenue.
  • A strong and formal built edge along Commonwealth Avenue together with additional elements such as acknowledging the alignment of Marcus Clarke Street through the site.
  • Vantage points on the foreshore that align with important axes.
  • A contemporary interpretation of the garden city concept to the built form, infrastructure and social program.

enhanced legacy plan example

Magnet for public life

Magnet for public life and a community – locate activities to encourage social interaction and make community activity highly accessible and visible.magnet for public life and a community heart

  • A cluster of destinations each with a diverse but complementary offer connected by pedestrian and cycle links.
  • A consolidated commercial and retail area at the intersection of the main street and boulevard.
  • Opportunity for food trucks and temporary cafes/restaurants to activate the foreshore during construction of the development lots.
  • A centrally located playground close to the heart of the development and other retail/food and beverage activity.
  • A more accessible foreshore and boardwalk for all that does not discriminate (by using stairs and long ramps).
  • Shade and weather protection structures to provide protection for people using seating and play areas.
  • A multi-purpose community space.
  • Site responsive public art and performances.
  • Space for large events.

Magnet for public life and a community heart examples

Integrated urban fabric

Integrated urban fabric - weave foreshore into urban structure through logical street pattern and connections.integrated urban fabric

  • Streets that support a richness of human activity and social connection.
  • Quality, durable and low-maintenance streetscape materials with rich textures and subtle colours that are part of a consistent design language across the development.
  • Precinct approach to green infrastructure (power, storm water and grey water)
  • Barrier-free movement for people of all ages and mobility levels.
  • Footpaths, shared paths and cycleways with generous proportions.
  • Majority of the water sensitive urban design infrastructure integrated into the streetscapes.
  • Art and sculpture incorporated in the public realm to celebrate the identity and cultural history of Acton Waterfront.
  • Shade trees to soften streets, paths and cycleways.
  • A combination of carefully curated hard and soft landscape materials to favour a sense of green in all streets and open spaces.
  • Private landscape interfacing with public spaces (including streets and open space).

integrated urban fabric examples

Strong connections

Strong connections - create a strong tie between the city and lake through an engaging journey. strong connections

  • Multiple direct vehicle, pedestrian and cycle connections between the city centre and Acton Waterfront.
  • Easy pedestrian connection to light rail stops.
  • Walkable public spaces that are easy to navigate and have shade, generous proportions, shelter, places to rest, and points of interest.
  • An enhanced and attractive journey for pedestrians and cyclists over Parkes Way in the form of a land bridge/deck park.
  • A slip lane/tunnel from Commonwealth Avenue to Parkes Way west to prevent high volumes of non-local traffic passing through Acton Waterfront.
  • Ferry landings adjacent to key nodes including near Henry Rolland Park to link together the light rail stop, Acton Waterfront and the National Museum.
  • A direct cycle connection to Marcus Clarke Street and destinations beyond.
  • A pedestrian and cycle connection to New Acton via a shared path bridge over Parkes Way.
  • Shared path connection to the western and central loops.

strong connections examples

Destinations in Acton Waterfront

Acton Waterfront will have two important roles. It will simultaneously be:

To achieve this balance, Acton Waterfront will have four key destinations:

The Heart

Active, sociable, intergenerational and energetic

The Heart is the largest anchor destination along the foreshore area. It supports many types of hospitality and recreational the heartactivities for people of all ages and abilities. Some of the key visitor experiences at this destination include:

  • Waterfront promenade - a pedestrian street central to the foreshore area. The street can also be used as event space on a temporary basis.
  • Major playground - a drawcard of families.
  • Foreshore dining – a diverse and affordable dining destination.
  • Event space – a combination of flexible spaces for events of different scales ranging from major to small with power and water connections.
  • Multi-functional shade structure/pavilion and public facilities – large shade structures provide weather protection for everyday uses and community gathering.
  • Green space – lawns, gardens and trees are the dominant surface treatment of the space.
  • A community space supporting a variety of activities including co-working and business centre, gallery, fitness, a meeting place for community groups and public toilets.

the heart examples

Henry Rolland Park 

Family friendly, relaxing and sociablehenry rolland park

Recently installed public amenities and landscape features in Henry Rolland Park include:

  • Large event lawn
  • Fitness equipment
  • Shelters
  • Barbecues
  • Pontoon with kayak launch
  • Boardwalk
  • Seating
  • Lighting
  • Public art

henry rolland park examples

Cultural Landscape 

Immersed in nature and access to water sportscultural landscape

This destination defines the western foreshore between the National Museum and Edinburgh Avenue. Compared to the other destinations in the precinct, this location is a predominantly vegetated space. Its natural landscape setting features soft water edge treatments, large areas of mass planting, lawn and groves of trees. The living cultural landscape is another important theme integrated into the landscape concept, providing a platform to listen and learn about Indigenous culture.

The primary visitor experiences here include water-based activities, family gatherings and cultural activities.

  • Continuation of an informal boardwalk and path to the National Museum.
  • Swimming beach on the lake edge.
  • Kayak launching ramp.
  • Cultural interpretation, signage and wayfinding.
  • Small-scale natural play area near the family gathering area.
  • Pavilion with public toilets, change rooms and storage area – the building design can potentially be incorporated into the level changes at Edinburgh Avenue.
  • Gathering areas and amenities to support Indigenous cultural practice, workshop and educational programs and cultural programs.
  • Stormwater treatment ponds and wetlands.
  • Infrastructure and service provisions for temporary events.

cultural landscape examples

Active Streets and Lanes 

Sociable, activated and greenactive landscapes

A well-designed streetscape can improve quality of life, the local environment and boost local businesses rather than simply move vehicles from place to place. As a destination, the street network can provide an engaging and memorable visitor experience, different to that of parks.

Within Acton Waterfront, the streets and lanes need to be designed as places in which everyday life happens.

  • A place where you get to know who lives and works in Acton Waterfront.
  • The green and comfortable streets connect you to nature and make you feel relaxed.
  • A concentration of activity in the streets and adjoining buildings generates a buzz of activity.

active streets examples