The Griffin plan for Canberra saw the Lake as the key unifying element, with a lakeside becoming less formal and more naturalistic as it progresses from the city centre. Griffin originally envisaged three formal basins with more natural areas forming the eastern and western extent of the Lake. The Lake continues to act as the central stage of Griffin’s ‘amphitheatre’ of hills, designed to display national monuments reflected in its ornamental waters. Its location in the centre of the city offered Griffin the opportunity to create one of the world’s great central parks – ‘playground of the city’ as Griffin described it. Griffin’s plan saw large stretches of natural parkland alternated with judiciously sited urban waterfront developments.
Much of the original design conception of the Lake has been realised in the landscape setting of the Lake for the National Capital. However, many of the more formal aspects of the original design have been relaxed.
The Lake Burley Griffin Management Plan 2011 identifies a number of additional values that the Lake now has in terms of natural heritage values - the Lake is a living freshwater system, providing habitat for a variety of species and for water resource management - the Lake plays a role in managing stormwater and for irrigation. These values have come under pressure from increases in the Canberra population and seasonal fluctuations in rainfall and climate.