Design Canberra Festival Design Canberra Festival

Civic Square 1969
Civic Square 1969

Civic Square

In November 2019, Civic Square will be transformed to become the dedicated site for talks, entertainment, parties, performances, art, wellness and ideas to define the DESIGN Canberra festival experience during each working week from 4–24 November.

Defined by a large-scale design installations and a vibrant public program, Civic Square will become a canvas for designers and other artists to test ideas and showcase artistic talent and ambition from Canberra and the world. Each working week of DESIGN Canberra (4-24 November 2019) will feature programs and activations to draw audiences to Civic Square and engage with its vision and installations.

Programs will include: keynote talks, panel discussions, designer presentations, tours, films, music, pop-up bars, product launches and a wellness program (yoga, meditation, social running and cycling groups). Hands on workshops will also be presented in the square.

The Civic Offices were commissioned by the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) and designed in 1959 by Roy Simpson of Yuncken, Freeman Architects. The offices and square were intended to function as the centre of Canberra’s administrative and cultural life. They still do: the South building houses the ACT Legislative Assembly, while the North building accommodates the Canberra Museum and Gallery, and Craft ACT.

The Civic Offices were originally a balanced pair of L-shaped buildings in the Late Twentieth Century stripped classical style, with their symmetrical massing and repetitive columns clad in distinctive gold mosaic tiles. In 1975 the L-shaped buildings were enclosed and each now has a central courtyard. The buildings are clad in pre-cast white quartz panels separated by aluminium glazing. The ground floors have a set-back to form a colonnade. The three storey buildings face each other across the paved Civic Square, which contains two important works of mid-century Australian art: the bronze statue of Ethos, (Tom Bass, 1961) which symbolises the spirit of the community; and Thespis (Robert Cook,1965), now located in the foyer of the Canberra Theatre Centre.

Civic Offices and Civic Square was a key complex in the early phase of development in Canberra under the NCDC. The buildings are symbolically important to Canberra for their social and planning values, and it remains a largely intact mid-century public space.

Text courtesy of Martin Miles,

Selected Civic Square festival programs have been made possible with support from the ACT Government under the City Renewal Authority’s City Grants program