Canberra’s Parliament House: a ‘symbol of national identity’

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Canberra's Parliament House: a 'symbol of national identity'
Canberra’s Parliament House was built to mark the bicentenary of European settlement in 1988

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Canberra's Parliament House: a 'symbol of national identity'
Canberra’s Parliament House was built to mark the bicentenary of European settlement in 1988

Carefully integrated into the configurations of the land and stuffed to the brim with Australian pride, the Canberra Parliament Building represents the city’s development from remote bushland to a bold democratic capital

“I have planned a city not like any other city in the world. I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city – a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future.”

Those were the words of Walter Burley Griffin, the young American architect who won a competition to design the new Australian capital city, Canberra, in 1912. The idealistic Griffin, along with his professional and life partner Marion Mahony, spent the next eight years tied in knots by politicians and bureaucrats determined to prevent his vision from becoming a reality.

Griffin resigned from the project in 1920 without having created a single building, and little of his plan was put into effect, aside from a few roads and a lake. Yet the influence of Griffin and Mahony’s work pervades Australia’s most significant public building, the Parliament House created by Romaldo Giurgola almost 70 years later.

Griffin and Mahony believed fervently in Australia’s potential as a young and bold democracy. Griffin declared that the new capital – to be located in bushland between Sydney and Melbourne – presented a unique opportunity for a totally planned city. He said, “This virgin city under unified control … is in a position to exact unity in plan and homogeneity in expression and harmony with the whole natural environment.” []

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