Canberra’s embassies bring the rest of the world to the bush capital.
As physical manifestations of the nations they represent, they offer a place to pick up visas, talk trade and defence, stage protests and show support in times of crisis.
Here’s what Curious Canberran Brendan Carroll was keen to find out:
“Every day going to work over the past five years I’ve got to notice all those foreign mission buildings in Canberra,” he said.
“I want to know how many embassies are there in Canberra and do they have to have a quirky design to match their country’s architecture?”
Canberra’s diplomatic community grew slowly.
British migration officer E.T. Crutchley was the first diplomat to be based in the capital, starting work in 1930.
The first purpose-built mission, using materials from the Canberra Brickworks, was the Embassy of the United States, which opened in 1943.
The Canadian Embassy opened around the same time, but it wasn’t until 1964 that they moved to their current home on Commonwealth Avenue, in the shadow of Parliament House.
We paid a visit to find out how different embassies are designed.
But it does have unique features.
“The roof is sheathed in copper, red cedar is used for the eaves. A lot of Canadian wood is used inside to have that sort of Canadian aspect to it.”
Canada’s home away from home has “the vibe” the National Capital Authority (NCA) is looking for.
“First of all, we make sure land is available for embassies to establish themselves in Canberra. We also establish a planning framework and we make sure we have control over the designs of those embassies – things like building heights and landscape designs.”
She could also run through the numbers.
“There are 108 diplomatic missions currently in Canberra,” she said.
“66 have developed chancery or residences on designated land and about 40 are currently renting premises.”
Around the world in 40 minutes
Canberra’s diplomatic real estate have become an unexpected hit with anyone looking for a quick round-the-world trip.
I’m told that the NCA’s Yarralumla Diplomatic Estate Tour map is the most popular page on its website.
It guides the public around the ‘dress circle’ of diplomatic missions noting historic and architectural highlights and takes 40 minutes by car, or two-and-a-half hours on foot.
Curious Canberran Brendan Carroll has a few favourites.
“Then you’ve got the old traditional [ones], like the British High Commission, New Zealand, Canada all lined up – reflecting that British history that we have all linked together.”
Who asked the question?
Brendan Carroll works at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, taking school groups through the museum.
“I actually thought of this question while at work,” he said. “When asking interstate students who visit us at the museum, where they are going next on their Canberra trip?
Sometimes I hear from students that their bus driver is going to take them on the embassy bus tour.”