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CAPITheticAL –


CAPITheticAL invites responses to many questions, including:

  • Would you build a new capital today or could the Australian Federation be expressed in a different way?
  • Would it be a city in the conventional sense or not? If not, what form might it take?
  • What ideas would drive its design and development?
  • How would 21st century social, political and environmental factors influence the nature of the city?
  • Of what should our national capital consist?


Between Federation in 1901 and the selection of the national capital site in 1908, various pressures particular to the concerns and conditions of the time influenced Canberra’s establishment and growth. Today, those ‘pressures’ seem less compelling.This competition, a hypothetical, invites participants to re-imagine the task faced by those whose job it was to decide how the capital would be created. What kinds of pressures and influences would there be if the city were being planned today?

  • Are there relevant security concerns that would influence the location and design of a national capital today?
  • Can the design and location of a city influence clarity, compassion and productivity in the thinking of Governments and political representatives?
  • What influence would climate change have?
  • Can the design of a city influence the life and work of its residents?


More than $100,000 has been provided for prizes in the competition.

The first prize will be to the minimum value of $70,000.

Design students are encouraged to enter the competition, individually or in groups, and the Jury may award a student prize with a value of up to $10,000 where high quality submissions are received from design students.

Additional jury prizes, commendations or honourable mentions may be awarded to submissions of high quality.


CAPITheticAL is an international competition open to individuals and collaborative design teams of professionals, students and recent graduates in architecture, planning, engineering, landscape architecture, urban design, as well as artists, environmentalists and other suitably qualified design professionals who have a passion for cities and urban culture.

Entry is free.


  •  A design submission in the chosen format which contains sufficient detail to fully explain the entry to the Jury and the public attending the exhibition.
  • The entry should demonstrate knowledge of the debates, influences and processes that led to the competition for the design of Canberra as Australia’s national capital. This demonstration may be written or presented graphically or may be a combination of presentation media.


The following provocations are prompts, potential ways of creating a space for thinking through the consequences of bringing Canberra’s past history into our present and very different world. What kind of national capital would we imagine now?

  • National versus Local: The architecture of a capital is imposing as an expression of nationhood and heritage, values and aspirations. How then should such a city express itself as a place where people also live, work and play? 

    Australia is the world’s most urbanised nation, with 57% of its population living in the five largest cities. This figure is close to double that of Europe and the USA. Should a hypothetical capital have ambitions as a sixth metropolis?

What is a city?

  • event?
  • infrastructure?
  • home?
  • market?
  • government?
  • landscape?
  • object?
  • experience?
  • commerce?
  • community?
  • communication?

Is a capital city different?

Whose: Does our changing demographic influence the shape, substance or style of the city?

How: Do social, political and environmental pressures and expectations influence how an Australian capital might be created today?

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