City Walk – Public Realm Upgrade – Canberra ACT

  • 2023

  • Architectural
    Place Design

Designed In:


The City Renewal Authority has transformed Canberra’s main pedestrian-only shopping precinct – City Walk – into a popular and functional green oasis in the City Centre.

Our design used plantings, street furniture and public art to deliver a thriving high-street experience that has been embraced by the local community.

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Image: Tim Kilinc
Image: Tim Kilinc
Image: Gupi de Zavalia
Image: Martin Ollman
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  • With minimal upgrades over the past 40 years, City Walk had become a bland, tired, and heavily paved space. It was about creating a modern and exciting multi-use precinct befitting of Canberra’s City Centre. Business and community feedback reflected the need to make the area more attractive for locals and visitors. Our challenge was to deliver a cooler, more comfortable, accessible, and versatile public space that draws people to the City Centre and encourages them to stay throughout the day. Ensuring business continuity through delivery, all this happening as the global pandemic emerged.

  • Our design focussed on the people who visit, live, or work in the City Centre. This approach – along with broader site analysis – ensured the design addressed the challenges: •Central lush gardens, including local species ‘the Gardens’, large, grassed areas ‘The Lawns’, permeable paving and new public furniture created a green oasis in the once harsh mall. •Infrastructure to support live music and overhead lighting, encourages ongoing activation throughout the day. •Pushing the movement of pedestrians to the shops has supported businesses. •Providing business continuity during the global pandemic with a simple clever design and a short sharp construction program.

  • Our work has transformed City Walk from a hot and barren thoroughfare into a cool and shaded city destination – a place to meet friends, relax or enjoy a meal. The project has multiple sustainability outcomes. Whilst taking advantage of existing tree canopy added immediate shade, garden beds significantly increased ground permeability. The social benefits are clearer: •evening use has increased 339% for residents and 115% for non-residents- with flow-up benefits for business. •dwell times increased 12%, with an average night-time visit lasting 220 minutes. The project delivered robust, flexible public infrastructure that meets the needs of local business and community.

  • Our upgrade of City Walk saw the creation of two distinct but complementary spaces – ‘The Lawns’ and ‘The Gardens’. The Lawns include two generous lawns totalling 635m2. The smaller lawn is planted with a grove of silver Birch trees providing seasonal comfort through dappled shade. The longer lawn provides an adaptable space for both formal and informal events and activities. High-quality concrete seating fins and lighting pay homage to the strong architectural columns of the original entry to David Jones. People now sit and engage with the entry space and the 1960s tiled entry by renowned Canberra Artist Frank Hinder. The popularity of the lawns has enabled David Jones to reopen their main doors following challenges with anti-social behaviour embracing the public realm. The Gardens, located among 24 existing mature Plane trees, were planted with over 3500 mainly endemic species framed by timber seating and eating spaces. This supports the surrounding restaurants by encouraging workers and visitors to linger and have lunch in the space. The design provides a unique response to the typical urban mall. It provides a strong environmental response to a typically harsh urban setting. Encouraging visitors and setting the foundation to the revitalisation of City Walk.