Out of the box

A dynamic and daring new experiment in urban development will ‘pop up’ along the edge of Lake Burley Griffin on Canberra Day.

Westside Acton Park will be activated with a temporary shipping container village that aims to breathe new life into a long-forgotten part of our city.

Exciting and edgy new businesses, including a cafe, rooftop bar, Vietnamese restaurant, French crêperie and gym, are moving into the space, which will feature free Wi-Fi, a rock climbing wall and make-shift artists’ studios. A central square will be the perfect spot for bustling markets, live concerts and national sporting events, or just a chance for cyclists and joggers to grab a coffee and a breather. 

This is the first step in the ACT Government’s activation of the lakeside, and is central to a broader vision of the City to the Lake project. However, a round of applause must go to the group of Canberra developers, designers and entrepreneurs, known as Stomping Grounds Collective, for their inspiration and perspiration.

The project has captured the attention of people around Australia, as it is made from low-cost, ready-made, durable and sustainable materials – with everything ready for reuse when the pop up park has had its day. This makes it ideal for short-term developments that attract people and activate parts of a city while more permanent projects are getting off the ground.

In other parts of the world, ‘cargotechture’ is creating dynamic, temporary spaces – from student accommodation to shopping malls. In Montreal, for example, shipping containers appear in the warmer months to provide casual outdoor seating and extra capacity for café culture. In winter, they go into storage.

In Christchurch, the city’s property and building owners recognised that fast and friendly development was needed to encourage people back into the CBD after the 2011 earthquake. The strip of 50-odd shipping container shops are such a success, Christchurch has risen to number six in the Lonely Planet’s guide to the world’s ‘must visit’ places.

Now Canberra has another pocket of urban, über cool – so let’s get out there and support this exciting new place for people.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia