Parliament House, Canberra
The main entrance and the flag mast
|Location||Canberra, Australian Capital Territory|
|Inaugurated||9 May 1988|
|Floor area||250,000 m²|
|Design and construction|
|Architecture firm||Mitchell/Giurgola Architects|
Parliament House is the meeting facility of the Parliament of Australia located in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The building was designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects and opened on 9 May 1988 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. Costing around A$1.1 billion, it was the most expensive building in the world at the time of its construction.
Federal Parliament meetings were first held in Melbourne until 1927. Between 1927 and 1988, the Parliament of Australia met in the Provisional Parliament House, which is now known as "Old Parliament House". Construction of Australia's permanent Parliament House was delayed while its location was debated. Construction of the new building began in 1981. The principal design of the structure is based on the shape of two boomerangs and is topped by an 81-metre flagpole.
It contains 4,700 rooms and many areas are open to the public. The main foyer contains a marble staircase and leads to the Great Hall which has a large tapestry on display. The House of Representatives chamber is decorated green while the Senate chamber has a red colour scheme. Between the two chambers is the Members' Hall which has a water feature and is not open to the public. The Ministerial Wing houses the office of the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
Before the establishment of Canberra
In 1901, when the six British colonies in Australia federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne and Sydney were the two largest cities in the country, but the long history of rivalry between them meant that neither could become the national capital. Section 125 of the Constitution of Australia therefore provided that:
The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and shall be in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.
Such territory shall contain an area of not less than one hundred square miles, and such portion thereof as shall consist of Crown lands shall be granted to the Commonwealth without any payment therefor. The Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meet at the seat of Government.
In 1909, after much argument, the Parliament decided that the new capital would be in the southern part of New South Wales, on the site which is now Canberra. The Commonwealth acquired control over the land in 1911, but World War I intervened, and nothing was done for some years to build the city. Federal Parliament did not leave Melbourne until 1927.
In the meantime the Australian Parliament met in the 19th century edifice of Parliament House, Melbourne, while the Victorian State Parliament met in the nearby Royal Exhibition Building for 26 years.
Old Parliament House
After World War I the Federal Capital Advisory Committee was established to prepare Canberra to be the seat of government, including the construction of a Parliament House. The committee decided that it would be best to erect a "provisional" building, to serve for a predicted 50 years until a new, "permanent" House could be built. In the event, Old Parliament House was Parliament's home for 61 years. In the last decade of its use as a parliament the building had a chronic shortage of available space.
New Parliament House
In 1978 the Fraser government decided to proceed with a new building on Capital Hill, and the Parliament House Construction Authority was created. A two-stage competition was announced, for which the Authority consulted the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and, together with the National Capital Development Commission, made available to competitors a brief and competition documents. The design competition drew 329 entries from 29 countries.
The competition winner was the New York-based architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgola, with the on-site work directed by Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola, with a design which involved burying most of the building under Capital Hill, and capping the edifice with an enormous spire topped by a large Australian flag. The facades, however, included deliberate imitation of some of the patterns of the Old Parliament House, so that there is a slight resemblance despite the massive difference of scale.
Giurgola placed an emphasis the visual aethestics of the building by using landscape architect, Peter G. Rolland to direct civil engineers, a reversal of the traditional roles in Australia. Rolland played a pivotal role in the design, development and coordination of all surface elements including pool design, paving, conceptual lighting and art work locations. Horticultural experts from the Australian National Botanic Gardens and a government nursery were consulted on plant selection. Permanent irrigation has been limited to only the more formal areas.
Construction began in 1981, and the House was intended to be ready by Australia Day, 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. It was expected to cost A$220 million. Neither the deadline nor the budget was met. The building was finally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 May 1988, the anniversary of the opening of both the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne on 9 May 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V), and of the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May 1927 by the Duke of York (later King George VI).
The flag flown from the 81 metre flagpole is 12.8 m by 6.4 m, about the size of half a tennis court. The flagpole weighs 250 tonnes and is made of polished stainless steel from Wollongong. It was designed to be the pinnacle of Parliament House and is an easily recognisable symbol of national government. It is visible by day from outside and inside Parliament House and floodlit at night. The flag itself weighs approximately 15 kg.
The site covers 80 acres. The building was designed to "sit above" Old Parliament House when seen from a distance. The building is four metres higher than the original height of the hill. About one million cubic metres of rock had to be excavated from the site. It was used to fill low-lying areas in the city. Most of the granite used was sourced from Australia. Twice the amount needed was quarried as a very high standard of granite was required particularly for the curved walls.
It was proposed originally to demolish Old Parliament House so that there would be an uninterrupted vista from the New Parliament House to Lake Burley Griffin and the Australian War Memorial, but there were successful representations for preservation of the historic building, which now houses a parliamentary museum.
The original idea was for Parliament House to be open freely to the public, and the sweeping lawns leading up to the entrances were intended to symbolise this. The building is a major visitor attraction in Canberra with about 1 million visits each year. With the increased risk of terrorist attacks in recent years, the security of Parliament House has been increased greatly. One result has been the construction of crash barriers blocking vehicular access to the lawns.
The public entrance to Parliament House opens into a main foyer leading into the Great Hall, which features a tapestry based on a painting by Arthur Boyd, the original of which is also displayed in the building. Functions that have parliamentary and federal relevance often take place here, but the Great Hall is also open to functions for the general public, such as weddings, and the nearby University of Canberra hosts graduation ceremonies here.
Below the tapestry of the Great Hall is a removable division which opens on to the Members' Hall, which has a water feature at its centre. This is an area restricted to security-classified occupants of the building and special visitors. Directly ahead of the Members' Hall is the Ministerial Wing, housing the office suites of the Prime Minister and government Ministers. The Members' Hall has access to the House of Representatives and the Senate buildings to the left and right of the main entrance to the halls respectively. Public access to the visitors' galleries and the Main Committee Room is via an upper level reached by impressive marble staircases ascending from the entrance foyer. There are also 19 committee rooms which are open to the public and a highly secure Cabinet Room on the ground floor.
House of Representatives
From the perspective of the image, the press gallery is ahead, with public galleries containing 388 seats to the left and right. Soundproofed galleries for school groups are directly above these, as no talking is permitted when the House members are present.
Frontbench (Cabinet) members approach the table with the ornate box (pictured), known as the despatch box, to speak. Backbenchers have a microphone on their desk, and merely stand to speak (unless they cannot stand), in accordance with standing order 60.
Also on the table is a copy of Hansard and where the clerk and deputy clerk sit. The clerk needs to know all the rules of Parliament and is responsible for ringing the bells during a division (voting). In front of the clerk are the hour glasses. The outer glasses measure four minutes and the middle glass measures two. These glasses are turned when there is a division; one of the four-minute glasses is turned and the bells will ring and the clocks will flash green for the House of Representatives or red for the Senate for four minutes. After the hour glass stops, the house's attendants will lock the doors and the whips will count the votes. Members vote by either moving to the government side of the house for a vote for a bill or the opposition side for a vote against a bill. If there is a division soon after another division, the middle hour glass will be turned and the bells will ring for two minutes.
As is the custom with Westminster parliaments, members of the governing party sit to the Speaker's right, and the Opposition sits to the Speaker's left. Independents and minor parties sit on the cross-benches. The long benches (the front benches) closest to the despatch boxes are reserved for the Cabinet on the government's side and the "Shadow Cabinet" on the Opposition's side.
The gallery arrangement is almost identical to that of the House of Representatives. Unlike the House of Representatives, only the leader of the government or opposition in the Senate approaches the lectern; other frontbench senators and all backbench senators have a desk microphone. As can be seen from the illustrations, unlike the House of Representatives, there is no distinction between the front and back benches in the Senate chamber; Senate ministers and their opposition counterparts have the same two-seat benches as all other senators. The press gallery is located above the Senate chamber. The presiding officer of the Australian Senate is the President of the Senate. He occupies a position in the Senate chamber similar to that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Behind the seat of the President of the Senate are two large seats which are modern versions of thrones. The larger is used by the Governor-General or the monarch (when visiting) when they open Parliament at the start of a new parliamentary session. The vice-regal consort or the royal consort (when visiting) sits in the smaller throne.
- Australia Spirit of a Nation, p. 101
- Blenkin, Max (1 January 2009). "Parliament forced to build new Parliament House in Canberra". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
- Cantor, Steven L. (1996). Contemporary Trends in Landscape Architecture. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 160–166. ISBN 0471287911. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Tony Stephens, "Like his work, he'll blend into the landscape", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 1999
- "A symbol built to last". Australian Government. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- Dunkerley, Susanna (8 May 2008). "Parliament House to mark 20th birthday". Nine News. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- The Australian Political System, p. 737
- Australia Spirit of a Nation, p. 100
- Australia Spirit of a Nation, p. 146
- "43 Parliament House Facts". Parliamentary Education Office. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- "A Closer Look: Australia's Parliament House". Parliamentary Education Office. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- "Great Hall Tapestry". Parliament of Australia.
- "Parliament of Australia Visitors". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
Books, letters, articles, websites
- Parliament House Construction Authority (1986). Australia's New Parliament House. Barton, ACT: The Authority. pp. 85pp. ISBN 0-642-09999-5.
- Lovell, David W; Ian MacAllister, William Maley, Chandran Kukathas (1998). The Australian Political System. South Melbourne: Addison Wesley Longman Australia Pty Ltd. p. 950. ISBN 0-582-81027-2.
- Cannon, Michael (1985). Australia Spirit of a Nation. South Melbourne: Curry O'Neil Ross Pty Ltd. ISBN 0-85902-210-2.
- Charlton, Ken; Rodney Garnett, Shibu Dutta (2001). Federal Capital Architecture Canberra 1911-1939 (2nd Edition, Paperback, 2001 ed.). Canberra, Australia: National Trust of Australia (ACT). ISBN 0-9578541-0-2.
- "Old Parliament House - Canberra". Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- "Parliament House Canberra". Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- "Canberra - Australia's Culture Portal". Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- "The Parliament of Australia: a Bibliography". Indiana University. 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Parliament House, Canberra.|
- Parliament of Australia
- Old Parliament House
- Parliament House / image trail from Picture Australia.
- This Australian ABC page gives an account of the new Parliament House.
- Australianexplorer Parliament House tourism site.
- Todae Solar Parliament House Solar Power Case Study
- Silex Systems Press Release
- Australian Parliament House Project Page