AUS Parliament House
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In 1978 Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced approval for a new Parliament House project. This led to the formation of the Parliament House Construction Authority and an international design competition. It attracted 329 entries. After approval by Parliament the winner was announced in June 1980 setting in train one of the nation's most adventurous construction projects. Malcolm Fraser turned the first sod in September of that year. Three years later, Prime Minister Bob Hawke placed the foundation stone.
A carnival atmosphere prevailed ahead of the opening ceremony as thousands of spectators gathered in anticipation on the slopes leading to the forecourt. Crowning the scene, the Australian flag 81 metres above the roof, atop the massive 220 tonne stainless steel flag mast - a structure the building architects Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp believed should serve as a "symbol for the citizens".
Officially opening the new Parliament House Queen Elizabeth remarked: "The completion of this splendid building has put the finishing touch to Walter Burley Griffin's grand design chosen by the Australian Government 76 years ago.
"It is as if all the other buildings of the great national institutions had been waiting for this, the greatest of them all, to take its rightful place as their centre and focus."
By organizing the design of the building in a very pragmatic way, MGT produced a proposal with a high level of built-in flexibility, which allowed for the timely construction of the institution and the progressive introduction of a great deal of innovation into Australian building.
Until the launch of Federation Square in Melbourne, in 1997, Australia's contribution to the history of international architectural competitions consisted essentially of two buildings: the Sydney Opera House, won by Jorn Utzon in 1957, and the Federal Parliament House in Canberra, won by Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp in 1980.
While Utzon's building is widely acknowledged as a daring piece of innovative design and one of the architectural icons of this century, MGT's winning scheme for Parliament House drew heavy criticism since the proposal was first unveiled: neo-classical lines, a beaux-arts parti, and the building's occupation of Capitol Hill - at the top of Griffins' 1912 scheme for Canberra - were seen by many as a display of a lack of sensibility towards Australian landscape, culture, and ingenuity, and as the result of a conservative approach to contemporary urban design.
This perception contributed to the building's poor international publication record.
Most critics, however, have failed to recognize the political connection between the architecture of the Parliament House and the saga of the Sydney Opera House, which took seventeen years to build and a budget twenty times as high as the original estimate. Lest to repeat the experience, the parliamentary authority put a clause in the competition program, stating that the design of the federal complex (eventually using enough concrete to build twenty-five Sydney Opera Houses) had to respond to a development time frame of eight years, from the award of the commission to the opening of the building.
See the following link for further background info re the construction of this landmark building
In a 1986 publication introducing the new Parliament House the Parliament House Construction Authority declared: "The building signifies Australia's maturing nationhood and stands as an enduring emblem of Parliament's central place in Australian society."
In 1998 has that projection been realised? Has the building met its design brief, is it a symbol of the nation's democracy? Predictably, Romaldo Giurgola answers in the affirmative. He is a partner in the firm Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp - the architects who designed the new Parliament House.
Mr Giurgola moved to Canberra from New York 10 years ago and has stayed in the national capital. He regards Parliament House as his firm's baby, and says he is still moved by the building. He expresses pleasant surprise at the level of its acceptance by the community.
"It is very heartening for the architects because it proves that architecture can attract people and give them a sense of community and national identity," he says.
"I am still moved by it. It belongs very much to this city and this landscape. I believe it also reflects the nation - it has a strong relationship with the earth. This connection with the earth comes to everyone who lives in Australia. It is very spontaneous because of the character of the country and the affinity of the people with the land."
Mr Giurgola is anxious the building should never lose the principle on which the design was based.
"Clarity of expression and form. People like the clarity of the building, its lighting and relationship to the landscape. It is important the form holds and is not tampered with," he says.