Albany; The Canvas View

Albany has always been the small little town from which I spent part of my younger years; the surreal beauty and cultural significance of such a town was wasted on my inapt ability to appreciate the place in which I come from. The globalization of the world has facilitated many of us to explore and expand our lives to many different places, yet here I am. My time spent overseas and throughout the regions of Australia has thus far been educational and has provided a deeper understanding of cultural significance and its impact on a place like Albany. I can’t seem to shake this small little town. I am delighted. My recent years studying Architecture in Perth have provided me with a better understanding of culture in coherence with the built environment. In particular, I feel Albany is yet to reach it’s full potential. The younger generations continue to leave, progressive projects are deemed ‘not necessary’ and the general town itself appears to become more isolated as it grows. So why is this?

The following is an amalgamation of responses provided by a canvas of local Individuals.


Throughout the years the Southwest of Australia has created an identity of a somewhat charming appeal, clearly defined by a thriving tourism industry. As someone who lives in Albany there are many aspects in which the everyday tourist is unfortunate enough to miss out on. To some degree, the visitors of Albany are subconsciously led into the touristic realm of which the everyday Albanian dares not to tread. It would be a lie to say that the average citizen of Albany would visit popular tourist destinations by freedom of choice more than once or twice a year. There is more to Albany that goes unnoticed; During the summer months Albany can be blasted with gale force easterly’s, off-putting to those without local knowledge of sheltered beaches and coves. Walking trails situated in Bald head and the Porongurups offer places for reflection and surreal landscapes. The intricate network of streets populated with federation housing can provide spontaneous morning walks full of historical aptitude. Each and every local has their own secrets and when peeling back the layers of the place they love you often hear the answer “there is nothing else to offer in Albany”; a somewhat selfish yet penetrable view many locals have.

Appeal however, isn’t necessarily defined by pristine landscapes. The built environment reflects a small, humble town alike something seen on a picturesque postcard. There is a keen sense of pride in local heritage and tradition. The same buildings still stand proud from long before I was born. Upkeep and maintenance of such buildings is second to none and stand oblivious to the bustling everyday activity of York Street. Soft-scaping and streetscaping embellish a colorful vibrant atmosphere. Locals seem to come and go without a care in the world, moving from one side of the street to the other in a fluid motion practiced a thousand times before. There’s an eerie, comforting feeling to be part of a place where nothing changes. Now this can either be seen as Albany protecting its cultural heritage however, I feel the desire to preserve breeds negligence. Like most of the younger generation in Albany would care to say, this elderly town has no drive to change, its time to break free of the inert retirement stereotype. The problem isn’t Albany’s lackluster desire for change, rather as Albany grows there is the sense of a hindering disconnection.


I have never viewed Albany as a growing city, its always been a small town with traditional integrity. The recent return to Albany and time spent living here has identified certain aspects of which immature cities lack. New infrastructure is key for expansion, however the connection to said infrastructure is arguably more important. Down the bottom of the main street on the waterfront sits an architecturally modern entertainment center, pub/restaurant and future 5 star hotel. Less than 300m away is Stirling terrace, known for its historical modesty owing homage to the 1900’s. These two proposed nightlife and entertainment hubs seem as if they’re stuck in an endless battle competing for custody, with the middle-ground being an open steel footbridge spanning over a desolate, drab railway line. Even during a wonderful spring afternoon, this footbridge receives little to no traffic with the exception of the odd drunkard stumbling from one pub to another. The footbridge is also completely rendered useless during the colder months and with a total combined 10 taxis in Albany it’s not feasible to visit one and the other. The attraction to York street is the ability to be able walk a small distance discovering a new favorite café or odd tinker shop. This new development site completely lacks this connection with a rushed ‘off the shelf’ footbridge.


Stirling Terrace Street View Present Day [1]

Connecting Footbridge [2]

Albany Entertainment Centre [3]


In consistency with this ‘disconnection’ the main tourist center has been relocated to the middle of York Street. With little to no parking and insufficient space to pull up in a caravan, there is almost no desire for tourists to visit the center. The old Gaol and Brig Amity are two treasures somewhat seamlessly pushed aside with no intended interactive path or identifiable connection to the center. As a town that relies heavily on it’s connection to heritage, the general hub doesn’t seem all too inclusive.


In addition planned development in Middleton Beach and Oyster Harbor seeks to,

“shift a vast majority of tourists and locals outside of Albany’s traditional center. This has been compounded by the recent development of a number of large format retail stores outside the traditional center and into the suburbs. This subsequent shift is likely to further reduce the vibrancy of York Street which will require significant stimulation to remain a relevant and attractive to both tourists and locals.” – DA

In particular the new ANZAC museum situated on top of Mt Clarence lies directly in between the central hub and the new Middleton beach development. Recently I visited the new ANZAC center and as a local I found it extremely hard to locate or identify. There is no clear set path from the central hub, just an old road with cracks that outnumber the amount of daily traffic. The center itself is a wonderful piece of architecture, humble with striking coastal views however, unjustified. It’s only by chance that a tourist would stumble across the center via a scenic route.


The entry points into Albany are also very disappointing and do not owe the town any justice.


“Both the Albany Highway and Upper Denmark entry points offer nothing aesthetically, anyone would feel very disappointed coming into such a beautiful town like Albany and this being the introduction.” – SA


That being said, the growth driving Albany is doing many great things. The cultural hub of Albany has now expanded allowing a far greater range of productions such as musicals, comedy shows, live performance and theatre, all of which were never heavily advertised when I was younger. The new centennial oval development has provided a professional sporting establishment the likes of which Albany has not seen before. The new Middleton Beach development is long overdue, and boasts to ‘provide a four star plus hotel with 80-100 rooms and 180 construction jobs’ [4]. This development has come to fruition 15 years after the old Esplanade Hotel was demolished. Projects of this caliber have the potential to boost job opportunism along with tourist and local interaction.


Old Esplanade hotel 1960’s [5]

Proposal for 5 star Middleton Beach Hotel [6]

Through actively seeking out activation areas Albany has given itself the opportunity to grow. Although it may seem unlikely to those who live here, Albany is becoming more apparent to opposing views. Ill be the first to admit that actively identifying a problem is not a solution to the problem. Community involvement and togetherness need to be key factors in moving forward and its something we need to embody not only in the final product, but all aspects of the design stage. To keep the notion of a small humble town, we need to act like a fully established mature city.




Canvas Participants:

Bill Weedon – Architect (BW)

Bill spent his earlier years situated on Barton’s Mill approximately 30kms South east of Perth. The mill was managed and operated by his father until the events of WWII where the family then relocated to Armadale and later Fremantle. Bill studied at Perth Technical where he started Aeronautical Engineering before finding his passion in Architecture. A series of events saw Bill moving to London in 1956 jumping abroad a ship, becoming a worker for passage to Europe. The year 1958 saw Bill return to Australia where he worked for Cameron Chisholm Nicol for the remainder of his architectural career. Bill is noted by his colleagues as a great architect with an eye for detail, but all round an even better person.

Steve Augustson – Builder (SA)

With a love for the coastline headed by his father (a shark and tuna fisherman), Steve now has over 30 years experience as a registered builder on the South Coast of WA. Finding his niche, Steve practices building architectural homes on a lot of challenging sites; being praised for his high quality craftsmanship, placing him amongst the elite ‘high end residential’ builders in Albany. To understand the value of ‘place’ (Albany) and embody this through design should be reflected in any builders craftsmanship,  “Albany – The scenery and the lifestyle it affords us is second to none.” 

Dylan Ashboth – Town Planner (DA)

Having lived in Bremer Bay, Perth, Adelaide and London, Dylan has discovered that the relaxing nature and historical value of his hometown Albany is yet to be surpassed.  Practicing as a Town Planner for the Albany Council, Dylan has the opportunity to work with various professionals in regards to Albany’s current and future built environments. The experiences gained from travelling and working in different locations have seen Dylan develop a fond appreciation for Albany driven by an inherit understanding that – unique something may be, there’s always the ability for change.


Sylvia Leighton – (SL)

Having grown up on a small farm on the South Coast of WA, Sylvia was often found with her siblings indulging in the aspects of rural living. The foundations of Sylvia’s early life resulted in her to study at the University of Western Australia, completing an undergraduate in Botany before completing her masters in Natural Resource Management. Sylvia’s strong emotional intelligence is evident in her kind, caring and wholesome nature which is closely linked with her love for the natural environment.

Caitlin Haynes – (CH)

Caitlin has lived in various different places growing up as a child, including living in a bus with her 3 younger siblings and both parents for a year. Caitlin now resides in Albany practicing as a hospitality lecturer at the Great Southern Regional Tafe. Her work allows her to travel to different regions, however nothing comes close to the love she feels for the nature and wildlife Albany produces. Caitlin hopes to “have a family one day and spend less time working and more time enjoying Australia”



[1] “Autumn And ANZAC Day: An Albany, WA Guide – Hi Light”. 2021. Hi Light.

[2] Photo Courtesy of Bocol Construction, Albany Waterfront Footbridge – Bocol Constructions

[3] Photo courtesy of AEC, Theatre and spaces | Perth Theatre Trust (

[4] Cabinet, D., 2021. Media Statements – Landmark new hotel for Albany’s Middleton Beach. [online] Available at:

[5] Swan Brewery Esplanade Hotel Courtesy of Supplied, Albany Advertiser, History of iconic beach preserved | Albany Advertiser

[6] Photo courtesy of Landcorp, Artist impression




Billy Haynes

Just a bloke who truly believes by improving the spaces in which we live, anyone can feel comfortable amongst this chaotic rapid lifestyle.