Autorizzazione Tribunale di Roma n. 378 del 30/09/2005
Rivista bimestrale - Anno VI - n.25 - Luglio-ottobre 2010

Canberra: the New Parliament

Founded between the years 1910 and 1913, when the state of New South Wales gave 2526 square kilometres to the Commonwealth giving birth to the Australian Capital Territory, the city of Canberra is one of the few in the world to be entirely planned. In fact, when the Chicago-based architect Walter Burley Griffin, who was Frank Lloyd Wright’s pupil, drew his project for the Australian Capital city, he foresaw its development along two orthogonal axes and around an artificial lake. Unfortunately, controversies, bureaucracy and the oncoming World War I caused Griffin’s resignation and an inevitable delay in Canberra’s edification process. In 1927 the seat of government was temporarily relocated to King George Terrace, betraying Griffin’s will to set the building on a hill not far away. It took 60 years to have the original project correctly done: exactly in 1980, when Romaldo Giurgola won the competition which was held in order to build the new House of Parliament that opened eight years later. Dug out 21 meters below, the Capital Hill surrounds the elegant structure, and the rooftops of the three main buildings are covered with a large, green, public park. 20 white pillars set the atrium’s borders with their simple yet astonishing magnitude, but the foyer will soon take our breath: a concrete jungle made of

grey-green pillars recalls the rainforests and the eucalyptus, the most common type of tree on the Australian territory; there also are shells mounted into the floor! The choice of using only Australian materials is a sign of the deep union between people and nature and a way to make each person an important part in the politic process. The inside of the New Parliament is enlightened by some huge windows which let us see the inner gardens and the secondary accesses placed orthogonally to the trapezoidal central building. The House of Representatives is entirely covered with green velvet while the Senate is decorated in purple: these tracts can also be found in the Old Parliament House but the peculiar features of the New Parliament are the clean shapes, the well-thought and straight cuts, the parks, the fountains, one of the four original copies of The Magna Charta and… more than 1000 clocks on the walls! The tour of the New Parliament House has come to its end. Just the time to take a look at the mosaic called “Meeting Place” (the aboriginal name of Canberra) to remember that we are exactly halfway to Sydney and Melbourne. The cold wind makes us remember that it's time to go: there's an Australian banner behind us and right in front of us the Old Parliament House comes out of the calm waters of the Burley Griffin lake…

traslation: Daniele Mastropietro