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Canberra, Australia

Lodge on the Lake, Canberra

Bridging the chasm between western and indigenous philosophies, the Dreamscape is soundspacedesign's thought provoking proposal for the Prime Minister of Australia's official residence.

Canberra is a city that espouses a landscape zeitgeist. It is a place of exotic and native gardens, rolling hills, eucalyptus woodlands and forested mountain ranges. In this competition entry, soundspacedesign draw on the heavens to inform a Dreamscape below.


While emphatically a landscape response, the ideation of a prime minister’s lodge for the 21st century does not limit itself to the earthbound however. Seeking a deeper connection to place and to all peoples, this proposal draws on precedents long established by Australia’s first peoples who have for millennia lived a spiritual connection to country that embraces the one-ness of ‘terra firma’ and the heavens...


The site is located with reference to key focii within Walter Burley Griffin's winning "Garden City" inspired competition plan for Canberra


The First People's conception of the Rainbow Serpent and its journey is key to the organisation of the site plan and its landscape, with architectural form taking inspiration from specific constellations within the Milky Way.

For eons this landscape has watched

The endless ballet of the night,

The ebb and flow of the constellations

A poetic evocation of collective memory,

And a history only spoken of...


The public reserve bisects the VIP gathering spaces from the PM's private residences

For Aboriginal Australians, The Dreaming is a worldview that provides an explanatory framework for creation, the inter-relationship of all living things. It also offers a frame and scaffold for governance, decision making, social proprieties, ceremonial activity and religious responsibilities;  a compelling inspiration re The Lodge’s raison d'être.


Top: Lesser known constellation inform the structure of the Gathering building.

Bottom: The complex is connected to the lake via the Dreamscape and lakeshore Art Gallery.

This Dreamscape, the new Prime Minister’s Lodge, grew out of our love for the Australian landscape, and its place beneath the Southern sky. Drawing on the journey of the rainbow Serpent, the Dreamscape is a unique and spiritual place, both ancient and modern, and for all mankind. It offers a sincere and heartfelt opportunity for connection, to our place, our world, and to each other.  It is an extraordinary ‘landscape’ of ceremony, celebration, communication and contemplation.

The duality of eternity and contemporaneousness is expressed in a purist design that emphasises the organic nature of the ancients versus the orthogonal nature of modernity, with occasional synthesis of the two - in special places where they meet.


Rammed earth and polished granite counterpoint bleached timber screens and packed river stones.


Gathering Hall circulation atrium


Gradient of Civic to Private space within the built form

In practical terms, The Lodge requires a high degree of transparency, access and security. The core of the Dreamscape is a public park that bisects the scheme into eastern and western hemispheres, (east accommodating Public/VIP and Ceremonial, whereas west is Private and Administrative). There is a high degree of functional valency between the zones depending on events.


The principal organising feature of the park is the Rainbow Serpent's journey from its source (the Sun) that meanders and forms the carved landscape dropping into a hole and eventually into the lake at the art gallery's courtyard; a spectacular waterfall. The watercourse is a seasonal one, allowing for rainwater collection and retention during the wet season.

Deeply moving and at times wild, The Dreamscape’s organic dynamism demonstrates an insightful dedication to ecological, social and cultural sustainability; to the earthly and spiritual oneness of us all; and to extraordinary power of visionary architecture that can bridge the chasm of western and indigenous philosophies.

Words - Robyn Harding & Don Albert

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