Parliament of Australia tourSydney and Melbourne have long been rivals – of the sibling rivalry kind. Both wanted to be known as the nation’s capital. In an effort to appease, a provision was put in the Australian Constitution to create a new federal capital in NSW but it was not to be within 160km (100 miles) of Sydney. This set in motion a series of events that would lead to the deliberate design and construction of Canberra – our nation’s capital. American architect Walter Burley Griffin’s design was chosen 1912 and construction of our capital began the year later. Due to the first World War, only a provisional building for parliament was built. In 1978 Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced plans for a new Parliament House which was to be opened in 1988, Australia’s centenary.

Keeping in with our seemingly love of a good competition, another international competition was held to find a suitable design for the building. New York-based Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects had the successful design. I highly recommend taking a tour of Parliament House so you can truly appreciate the deliberate design of the building, from the corridors and offices being designed to evoke the feeling of our typical Australian streets and houses, to the red, terracotta Marseille tile on the roof which the American architects felt typified Australian houses. 

In my previous tours of Parliament House, I had been accompanied by 60 plus 12 year olds. Parliament House is the standard Year 6 (final year of Primary School) excursion as that is the year that students learn about the development of democracy in Australia. This time I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by some of my fellow Visit Canberra human brochure people. The tour took on a completely different approach as we focused on the design principals behind the building, rather than the purpose for which the building was designed – although the purpose obviously influenced the design! One of my favourite features of Parliament House is the reflection pool which is located in the exact centre of the building. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos where it is located – so you will have to seek it our for yourself. The pool has been designed so that the water flows over the edge without making a single ripple, very tricky indeed! The pool also has a hole in the centre so that nobody is able to stand in the exact centre. Another interesting feature (as if there hasn’t been enough thought already put into this pool) is that if the President of the Senate opens the door and looks down the corridor and across the pool of reflection, they should be able to see the Speaker of the House of Representatives – providing they also have the door open!

Facts you may not know about Parliament House – through pictures

There are 4500 rooms in Parliament House

You could build 25 Sydney Opera Houses with the amount of concrete it took to build Parliament House

Tapestry Arthur Boyd

Parliament House has the second largest collection of art in Australia (second only to the National Gallery). The tapestry in the photo is the largest in Australia and the second largest in the world. It is based on the painting, also unnamed, by Arthur Boyd. Halley’s Comet was added to the tapestry because it was passing through when the tapestry was made in 1986

The flag is changed, weather permitting, on the first Wednesday of every month.

The flag that flies above Parliament House is changed, weather permitting, on the first Wednesday of every month.

The Australian Flag that flies above Parliament House is as big as a double decker bus!

The Australian Flag that flies above Parliament House is as big as a double decker bus! We were privileged enough to be able to unravel it and hold it out to it’s full size. In a rare moment of patriotism, we sang the national anthem – much to the delight of tourists close by.

The Prime Minister's courtyard (where we were granted special permission to take photographs) is based on the arid regions of Australia. The stone sculptures in the centre represent the Olgas. The timber used in pergola that the Wisteria climb over, were repurposed from an old wool store.

The Prime Minister’s courtyard (where we were granted special permission to take photographs) is based on the arid regions of Australia. The stone sculptures in the centre represent the Olgas. The timber used in pergola, that the Wisteria climb over, were repurposed from an old wool store.

There are 4500 rooms in Parliament house, covering 250 000 square metres. In the basement, they use popular streets from around Australia to help navigate.

There are 4500 rooms in Parliament house, covering 250 000 square metres. In the basement, they use popular streets from around Australia to help navigate.

Over 250 journalists and related staff make up the press gallery of Parliament House. This photo was taken in the main media room, housed in the basement of Parliament House.

Over 250 journalists and related staff make up the press gallery of Parliament House. This photo was taken in the main media room, housed in the basement of Parliament House.

 

Tours of Australia’s Parliament House are held at 10am, 1pm and 3pm, each day, free of charge. If you prefer a customised tour of Parliament House, you can arrange one for you own group with a cost of $9.50 per person, and a minimum total cost of $80. Visit the Parliament House website for further details. I highly recommend asking for a tour that incorporates the architectural significance of Parliament House. I’m not necessarily an avid fan of architecture, but you can’t help but admire the hundreds of tiny, significant details and thought that has gone into creating the building that houses our Nation’s government.

Written by Nadia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *