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Parliament House

Built: 1978-1988
Designed by: Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp
Type: Government Building
Canberra, Australia
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O ne of the advantages to being both a young state and a former British colony is that you have time to carefully select and plan out your capitol. But sometimes too much planning can be a bad thing. Many other capital cities spring from the earth in a fit of wartime haste with more initial planning going into walls and defenses than into the process of government or the people under its rule. In the case of Australia, the country's constitution ordered the capital to have its own territory, and not be more than 100 miles from Sydney. From the outset, the city of Canberra and its capitol grounds were designed to be beautiful. It is the result of an international design contest held in 1911 to come up with the world's most beautiful city. Parliament could not pick a winner from the three top finalists, so elements of all three were merged into Walter Burley Griffin's top design. It worked well in the existing topography of the Molonglo River Valley. The capitol would be on a hill with radiating boulevards stretching in the directions of Australia's state capitals. Politics delayed construction, and by 1916 the first World War has sapped the treasury making progress on the capitol difficult. Little more than roads could be built with the money available. By 1921 parliament grew weary of Griffin's inability to build a national capitol with virtually no money, so they did not renew his contract. To this day one portion of the capitol was never completed. The foundation stones were laid for the commencement column, and this foundation remains today. Things did not speed after Griffin's ouster. In fact, it wasn't until 1927 that parliament finally moved from Melbourne to Canberra, and even then they met in a temporary building. Then the Great Depression set in, dealing another setback to the fledgling capital. Many of the few businesses that existed closed, and even the Federal Capital Commission was disbanded. When the economic crisis eased, some money did start flowing; enough to build a memorial and an airstrip. But then Australia found itself thrust into the Second World War. It was cheaper to expand existing government departments in Sydney and Melbourne than to move them to Canberra. Thousands of public servants were shuttled between the three cities as the war effort continued. But diplomats and their support staffs settled in Canberra, which helped bring some growth and credibility to a capital that many still saw as unnecessary. The American Embassy was the first built, and was completed in 1943. The War brought much activity to the capital. There was even an unprecedented shortage of housing and office space. By 1954 the government finally became serious about having a real national capital that could rank among the other capitals of the world. The National Capital Development Commission was established to construct the necessary buildings and layout. The Griffin plan was resurrected and the population boomed. By 1988 Canberra finally had a permanent parliament building. Marion Mahony Griffin was Walter Burley Griffin's wife, and the first woman in the world to become a licensed architect.

  • 1901 - Australia becomes a nation. The parliament is in Melbourne until a new capital can be found and built.
  • 1904 - Parliament issues the Seat of Government act making Dalgety the new capital. The state of New South Wales objects.
  • 1906 - New South Wales offers Yass/Canberra for the capital.
  • 1909 - Parliament agrees to the Yass/Canberra district.
  • 1911 - The Seat of Government Bill passes, and 1,714 people, 1,762 cows, and 224,764 sheep in the district become the first inhabitants of Australia's capital.
  • 1913 - Lady Denman, the wife of the Governor-General of Australia declares the new capitol will be called "Canberra" which is a corruption of the Ngunnawal word "Corroboree" which means a meeting of people for a ceremonial dance.
  • 9 May, 1927 - Parliament moves into a temporary building in Canberra.
  • 9 May, 1988 - Parliament moves into its permanent building.

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"The Capital would properly lie in an amphitheatre of hills with an outlook towards the north and north-east, well sheltered from both southerly and westerly winds."
-Charles Scrivener, Government Surveyor

"The Federal Capital should be a beautiful city, occupying a commanding position, with extensive views and embracing distinctive features which will lend themselves to a design worthy of the object, not only for the present, but for all time."
-Hugh Mahon, Minister for Home Affairs

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Kendall Morgan-Chase
Thursday, September 8th, 2011 @ 3:38am
Rating: Five stars.
I've been to both the old and new parliament buildings, and I think that it is a contemporary building, clean, elegant, and open. Money, well spent, and something to be proud of.

daye oweredaba
Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 @ 9:59am
Rating: Five stars.
elegant and well proportioned

Monday, August 22nd, 2005 @ 6:30am
Rating: Five stars.
canberra is really cool. wen i went ther for da skool camp i saw it. it is MADZ!

katy Brusamarello
June 6th, 2003
I think the new parliament house is cool, when i went on canp with school to Canberra, we went to the new parliament house, it was ace.

November 27th, 2003
i think canberra is a verry nice place its butiful i thourt it was like sydny but its not its got clean air and grait people and after visiting parliament house old and new with my 6 grade class i think that its GRAIT and i beleave u should ceep leting schools in well bi and could you get jon to say hi to danielle.t please! bibi i was wondering if u could think obout letting kids have jobs @ the age of 12 or therteen becos by that time we need to start working and erning mony 4 ourselvs instead of borowing from our mums and dads please take this to hart love always danielle

Mark Sangean
Thursday, February 26th, 2004 @ 12:10pm
Very nice. Spartan, but elegant.

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