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IT issues on 666 ABC Canberra Drive with Keri Phillips each Wednesday at 5:50pm

Tom Worthington With Tom Worthington FACS, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Next: The Networked City, 19 June 2002


For the last few weeks 15 students from the Bauhaus Dessau (Germany) have been in Sydney to carry out a design exercise on integrating Information Technology, Computers and Telecommunications (ICT) into an urban environment, under the title "Serve City Sydney":

... design an urban/architectural model for a site in Sydney located on the waterfront at cross roads between the Central Business District and inner city residential communities.

The focus for our investigation is the influence of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) on the living and working conditions. The known phenomenon of individualisation is leading to the personalisation of services. Our goal is to define and describe the possible formation of a personalised service zone in the urban condition of Sydney. This personalised service zone is more than the agglomeration of services; it will create the possibility to satisfy very individual needs, incorporating existing and known services but also those yet to come.

From: SERVE CITY 2001-2002.

The Bauhaus Kolleg operates in the interdisciplinary tradition of the historic Bauhaus:

Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus rallied masters and students who sought to reverse the split between art and production by returning to the crafts as the foundation of all artistic activity and developing exemplary designs for objects and spaces that were to form part of a more humane future society. Following intense internal debate, in 1923 the Bauhaus turned its attention to industry under its founder and first director Walter Gropius (1883-1969). From Bauhaus History

The Bauhaus Kolleg invited me to present on my "Smart Apartment" in Canberra. This is a project for the the design and construction of an Internet connected home office or "smart apartment". The building has been completed in the suburb of O'connor in Canberra, and the apartment is being fitted out with the "smarts". As well as providing a real apartment, it is intended the to promote the design of net connected homes and offices. The idea is to be more down to earth with something practical and affordable, not an abstract ideal design exercise.

Canberra: Encircled by Light

City and Environs (Item 38) Canberra-wide coverage from several Hub sites
  1. City and Environs (Item 38), from The Walter Burley Griffin design drawings of the city of Canberra, Ian Batterham, National Archives of Australia, 1998
  2. Canberra-wide coverage from several “Hub” sites, from Introduction to TransACT, by Robin Eckermann, Chief Architect, TransACT, August 2001

The exhibition A Vision Splendid – How the Griffins imagined Australia’s capital, at the National Archives, provides the opportunity to see the original drawings of Canberra by Marion Mahony Griffin. These were for Walter Burley Griffin’s winning entry for the design of the city in the 1912 federal capital competition.

From ground level it is difficult to see the circular plan of Canberra. There is now another plan of circles across Canberra, designed by a twenty first century architect:

The rings in this case are the fiber optic cable of the TransACT broadband data network. One such cable enters the basement of the Smart Apartment building.

Design for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence

On 22 May 2002 the Federal Government announced that a $129.5 million Centre of Excellence would be established:

NICTA will become a national landmark institution that takes Australia’s ability to create and commercialise information and communications technologies to a new level... NICTA will establish major research and training nodes in Sydney and Canberra. The Sydney node will comprise headquarters at the Australian Technology Park plus a facility adjacent to the University of New South Wales. The Canberra node will be located adjacent to the Australian National University...

From: Joint Media Release - Government announces winning bid for ICT Centre of Excellence 22 May 2002

What might the Canberra, adjacent to the Australian National University look like? The Sydney Node at the the Australian Technology Park provides a good model for the overall structure, with the detail based on the Smart Apartment.

Australian Technology Park

Inside the ATP Innovation Center

The ATP is located at the old Eveleigh Railway Workshops, in Sydney. This includes a railway museum:

``Nearly 20,000 men spent most of their working lives at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops in Sydney's Redfern; heating, thumping, shaping and crafting steel into huge, beautiful, steam locomotives and carriages. They serviced up to 70 locos at a time and built more than 200, which ran on track costing nearly 20,000 per mile, at a time (1870s) when the railways were uniting Australia. It was an age of unprecedented expenditure and prodigious output, of singular vision and tradesmen's pride.''

From: Review of ``Railways, Relics and Romance: The Eveleigh Railway Workshops'', by Anthony Browell, 1996 Architecture Media Australia Pty Ltd.

``Bleeck's first real success as a writer came in 1936 when a series of stories featuring the character Raggles, based on a rat catcher at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops where he worked, began appearing in The Bulletin. He also wrote for various newspapers and magazines including New Idea, Woman's Mirror and the Sunday Telegraph.''From: Pulp Fiction ``Sensational and lurid stories, articles, trash arrive at the National Library'', Press Release, National Library of Australia, 11 February 1998

The ATP temporarily housed the Sydney Conservatorium of Music during refurbishment of its usual home in central Sydney. This made for a lively atmosphere. The ATP included a coffee shop in a central atrium of the building, allowing for informal contact between staff.

As well as providing a stimulating atmosphere, cultural and historical links of the site can be used for marketing the work of a research centre. This technique has been effective for the City of Cambridge, England. The ANU campus has a number of historic buildings which might be adapted for the Canberra node of the NICTA.

Design for a new NICTA Building

ICT Building Design by Tom Worthington If a new building is constructed, one with a similar layout top the ATP might be used (the design is provided as a dxf file in AutoCAD format). This would have offices around the periphery of three sides, with a glass walled atrium in the centre. The ground floor would hold meeting rooms, with increasingly more private offices on upper floors. Communication between offices would be by balconies looking out onto the atrium. The ground floor of the atrium would be a multipurpose performance and meeting space.

Kingston Power Station for the Centre of Excellence?

Kingston Power Station One historic industrial building in Canberra may be available for the ICT Centre of Excellence. This is the old Kingston Power Station. Located on the south eastern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, the building provided electrical power for early Canberra. Now part of a redevelopment plan for housing and businesses on the foreshore, the future use of the building is unclear.

The Power Station which, incidentally, had also been designed by John Smith Murdoch [Chief (Commonwealth) Architect and designer of Parliament House], was constructed during 1913-1915. To announce the commencement and end of shifts a steam whistle would be sounded from the roof and this could be heard in most of the settled areas of Canberra. Many people used it to regulate their own routines. The whistle had been salvaged from HMAS "Australia" after WWI. ... The shell of the Kingston building remains but is now a home to pigeons.

From: THE DIVISION BELLS AND THE TIME OF DAY, from the Unofficial Website for Old Parliament House, Canberra, by Denis Strangman (undated).

Overview Map of  Kingston Foreshore Overview Map from Kingston Foreshore Authority

The Kingston Foreshore Redevelopment will see the implementation of the circular lake shore envisaged on Burley Griffin's plan. The display apartment on-site is equipped with IntraVisions's IntraHub Communications Hub in the hall cupboard and data sockets in each room. The site is also planned to have combined home and small office accommodation. The nearby powerhouse would provide an appropriate setting for the NICTA, as part of a living and working environment.

Potential of wireless data services

Transact and similar data services cannot easily cable areas which lack power poles from which to hang the data cables. A new wireless data service has been launched in in Sydney:

Broadband Internet Access Always on wireless broadband data connections Service offering 256/128kbps and 512/128kbps Targeting availability better than 99.7% measured annually

Circuit switched voice Up to 8 circuit switched voice lines additional to data/internet connection per customer Meets definition of standard telephone service (lifeline supported) Will support G3 Fax and V.90/V.92 modem access and transparent access to voice and Touch Tone activated services

Symmetrical Data Services Enable access speeds up to 512kbps Standard interfaces

Video Streaming Supported by existing technology

Bundled Data and Voice Different services will be offered which bundle together high speed data/internet access and voice access. Products will be offered with service characteristics e.g. provisioning times; fault restoration; speeds and Service Level Agreements so as to address the specific needs of customers...."

From "INITIAL PRODUCT OFFERING", Unwired Australia

This might be the sort of thing the people at Gungahlin need to overcome their lack of broadband. This lack is somewhat ironic this was supposed to be the site for a Telstra broadband trial. The project started in around July 1993 and was shelved in late 1996.

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Copyright Tom Worthington 2001-2002.