A wetlands neighbourhood
Dairy Road is a 14-hectare site in Canberra’s East Lake next to the industrial suburb of Fyshwick and the human-made nature reserve, the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
Designed by David Chipperfield Architects and Assemble UK, the future vision for Dairy Road is for an interconnected neighbourhood where many often-separated parts work together as one ecosystem. Here, light industry, working, living, recreation, retail and entertainment will take place in a restored landscape.
The approach is landscape-led and responsive to the ecology of the neighbouring Jerrabomberra Wetlands. A series of native environments – wetlands, grasslands, woodlands – will be reintroduced to the site, rehabilitating it to one that more closely resembles its pre‑colonial ancestor.
Public spaces will fulfil specific functions – a working wetland for filtering surface water, a forest gully for families to picnic and play, a public square to host a market or a performance, robust working yards that support the day-to-day activities of tenants within the buildings and central gardens for social interaction.
Unlike other developments of comparable scale, Dairy Road will push against globalised construction products and systems towards a more localised approach using regional skills and materials. The site will be a resource. The spoil occupying the site (usually trucked away) will be reused and sculpted into a terraced topography nestling the residential buildings.
Light industry will continue to be prioritised at Dairy Road, recognising the commercial and cultural value that making brings to a place and the significance of industry to this part of Canberra.
Ten new robust and flexible ‘warehouse’ buildings will support a spectrum of activities from live-work studios to sports pitches, community centres and spaces for cultural production and manufacturing, along with a wide variety of ways of working from the messy to the virtual.
Housing at Dairy Road will support a population of 700 people and will be arranged around a new wetlands ecosystem. It will manifest a community of residents who support the philosophy of the place; those that want to be immersed in landscape, live modestly and ecologically and value kindness.
The architecture will be a framework for ecology, with gardens occupying spaces between buildings, extending down into basements and up vertically into private dwellings. Above ground verandahs will run along both sides of each building – one shared, one private – grounding the dwellings, and allowing for natural ventilation, sunlight from multiple directions and dual aspect views.
Rather than conventional living arrangements meant to appeal to everyone, dwellings will be designed to meet the needs of specific resident groups. There will be layouts for families (nuclear and otherwise), friends sharing, students and apprentices, people living alone and retirees, ranging from compact studios to house-like apartments.
As a logical conclusion to the landscape-led spirit, Dairy Road’s success will be measured by its capacity to improve health over time. This includes the physical and mental health and happiness of residents and workers, the health of the soil, natural ecologies and water bodies; the abundance of wildlife and biodiversity; and local economic prosperity.