Canberra from the outset has been a planned city based upon the 1912 winning competition entry from architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. As a result of this master planning, Parliament House is undoubtedly the focal point of all of Canberra. No tour or Architectural analysis of Canberra could be complete without a visit to Parliament House.
Parliament House was designed by New York based Architectural Firm Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp architects and was opened in 1988 to replace the provisional Parliament House. Both Old and New Parliament House are situated on a clearly expressed axis which looks out over Lake Burley Griffin to the National War Memorial.
The parliament forecourt references the aboriginal origins of the country with a mosaic based upon a Central Desert dot-style painting by Nelson Jagamara.
As one enters Parliament House it is done so from the same level as the forecourt and surrounds. This was an important statement by the Architects who might have otherwise followed a more traditional method of elevating the building upon a pedestal, which is common among buildings of importance. This grounded approach sets up the egalitarian relationship between the Parliament and the public.
This building is an excellent example of what it means for architecture to be democratic. It allows for openness and transparency, inviting observation and participation. From the symbolism and references to the materials and workmanship, it is a building of which all Australians can be proud.
This building, more than most shows that Architecture is for everyone.