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Kingston Arts Precinct

The SLA is taking a people-first approach to developing the Kingston Arts Precinct. We are currently developing a Place Brief with the community, arts organisations and stakeholders to guide future development of the site. Help shape the Kingston Arts Precinct – Join the conversation.

The ACT Government, artsACT and the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) are moving forward with the development of the Kingston Arts Precinct (Arts Precinct), with completion planned for end of 2025. We are looking forward to working with the community, progressing our shared goals and bringing the Kingston Arts Precinct to life. 

The Arts Precinct will be a leading destination for visitors and locals to explore contemporary visual arts and culture in the ACT. It will attract new audiences to enjoy arts practices, activities and content from Canberra’s local artists, the region and beyond.  

From its inception, the Arts Precinct has been a key element in the planning of the Kingston Foreshore and is a leading destination for contemporary arts and culture in the ACT region.  The ACT Government continues its commitment to delivering a precinct of value to the highest standards, that is sensitive to its surroundings, its cultural heritage and future sustainable living. 

We acknowledge that this site which we plan to redevelop is Ngunnawal Country. The Ngunnawal are the Indigenous people of this region and its first inhabitants. We seek to work in close cooperation with the land’s Traditional Custodians where this place remains as a meeting place for all to respect its natural history. 

As we progress our engagement, design and delivery, we will continue to update this website.

Integrating industrial heritage, arts organisations and the community 

The Arts Precinct is located in Section 49 Kingston (bound by Eastlake Parade and Wentworth Avenue and on the eastern edge of Telopea Park). The Arts Precinct will be the main visual entry point to the greater Kingston Foreshore area. It is home to some of Canberra’s oldest buildings including the Kingston Powerhouse (now home to Canberra Glassworks), The Fitters' Workshop (now a community facility) and Former Transport Depot. The site is significant for its association with Canberra’s early industrial history and its proximity to the Molonglo flood plains, an important Ngunnawal meeting place. 

On Wednesday 8 December 2021 artsACT led an event at Kingston’s Fitters’ Workshop that launched a new vision for the Kingston Arts Precinct. The vision Grounded in Country: A Future Arts Precinct in Kingston has been developed in consultation with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Network. The first stage of the vision will be to formally name the space, taking guidance from First Nations people.

The event highlight was the smoking ceremony led by Richie Allan, a Ngunnawal Knowledge Holder and artist. Richie gave a Welcome to Country after the smoking ceremony, encouraging the gathered organisations to see the process of developing the precinct as one following on from cultural practices on Ngunnawal Country. This is something that has been passed on since the Dreaming. 

Industrial heritage 

Central to the Arts Precinct are three of Canberra’s oldest heritage-listed buildings – The Powerhouse, The Former Transport Depot and The Fitters Workshop. 

The Powerhouse

The Powerhouse was designed by Federal Government architect J.S.Murdoch, and supplied Canberra with coal generated electricity from 1915 until it was decommissioned in 1957. It was then used as a training facility by electricity authority ACTEW until 2000. You can read more about the Heritage Significance of the building here. A new Conservation Management Plan for the Kingston Powerhouse Historic Precinct is currently being prepared, the earlier plan for 2001 can be found here.

The Powerhouse is now home to the Canberra Glassworks which is housed entirely within the existing building, the fabric of which was left ‘as found’ without refurbishment or renovation. The Canberra Glassworks provides facilities for glass artists to produce high-quality commission glass art and exhibition work. 

The Former Transport Depot

The Former Transport Depot was the centre of government transport operations in Canberra from 1927 to 1992 is now an historical Canberra Icon. It is particularly notable for the steel fully welded rigid portal frame that was built to support its roof in 1940-1941 and holds heritage significance. This construction is considered to be one of the earliest examples of this technology in the world of its size. You can read more about the heritage significance of the building here including the 2011 Conservation Management Plan.

The Fitters' Workshop

The Fitters’ Workshop was constructed in 1916-1917 and designed by John Smith Murdoch. It formed a key part of a wider industrial complex that enabled maintenance of government plant and equipment, and construction work. The Fitters’ Workshop is now a community facility, primarily used for arts and cultural use. You can read more about the heritage significance of the building here. The Conservation Management Plan was last updated in 2018 and can be viewed here.

The arts

The Arts Precinct will be home to: 

  • Canberra Contemporary Art Space
  • Canberra Glassworks
  • Craft ACT
  • M16 Artspace
  • Megalo Print Studio
  • PhotoAccess
  • A new space for Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

When the precinct is developed there will be additional studio, residential accommodation, and gallery space to accommodate:

  • Emerging artists 
  • Established artists
  • Visiting artists

artsACT, as the ACT Government’s art agency, is working closely with these founding residents, the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Network, and the sector to ensure the precinct meets the growing needs of Canberra’s arts community.

More information: https://www.arts.act.gov.au/our-arts-facilities/kingston-arts-precinct

Working with our community 

Community and stakeholder engagement is vital to the success of this project. 

We are currently working on an engagement plan that will guide our work with both the community and our stakeholders. We are re-establishing the Community Panel (formed in 2019) and look forward to working with them to create this destination precinct. The role of the Community Panel is to contribute to the project design development reaching Development Approval and co-create a Place Brief by defining what the future public space could bring to the Canberra community. 

We look forward to continuing our cooperation with stakeholders and the community to create this destination precinct.  We look forward to building on the relationships established to date and will prioritise engagement with the Ngunnuwal community to ensure we capture and celebrate the cultural heritage of this place. We see engagement with the community as a very important part of the planning process and look forward to sharing more information with you shortly on how you can get involved.

Place

The SLA’s vision is to create great places where communities thrive. As we mature as a place delivery agency, we are continually looking for opportunities to apply a ‘people-first approach’ and engage with new and existing communities in understanding localised place history, its qualities and desired future use. This early focus on people and place provides a roadmap to guiding physical design and improved public spaces. It helps strengthen character and identity and reflect the values and aspirations of the people that live and work in the area, as well as the people who visit it. 

For the Kingston Arts Precinct we are building on community, arts organisations and stakeholder input to date and have commenced work to better understand the precinct and how people are using it. The place planning work will lead to well-designed, people-friendly spaces that are attractive and lively, with a vibrant creative arts focus. 

Our priorities

We are currently working with other Territory Agencies on a new delivery model for this Precinct. A timeline is being reviewed, recognising the complexity of site conditions and infrastructure. Over the coming months we have some key priorities that we are working on:

  • Re-establish the Community Panel

  • Conservation Management Plan for the Kingston Powerhouse Historic Precinct approval

  • Procure a design team that will develop a concept EPD, finalise the design and work with SLA through all formal project approvals and into construction

  • Bring arts organisations and the Community Panel together to develop KAP Place Brief with a focus on ground floor tenancy opportunities, sustainability ambitions and future activation of public spaces

Contact

If you have any enquiries regarding the Kingston Arts Precinct, please contact the Suburban Land Agency at suburbanland@act.gov.au or by calling (02) 6205 0600.
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