Tributes are flooding in for Canberra’s Parliament House architect Dr Romaldo Giurgola AO who has passed away aged 95.
The Italian-American-Australian succumbed to a lengthy illness in his adopted home city of Canberra on Monday and has since been the subject of many a tribute from the community.
Just days into his tenure as the National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Ken Maher was among those to express his grief and condolences.
“Romaldo Giurgola was an architect of immense talent and international stature, with a prodigious body of influential work,” said Maher.
“The many accolades he has received both from the Institute and further afield is testament to the life-long contribution he has made not just to architecture but to our national identity.”
Ann Cleary, architect and senior lecturer at the University of Canberra, and a long-time associate of Giurgola also expressed her sadness at hearing about the loss of the 1988 AIA Gold Medal winning architect, suggesting he was a man of incredible humility and clarity of thought.
“Aldo was very kind, very generous, imparting a concern for the human condition as foremost in all considerations. He saw architecture as part of a continuum in which the qualities of the public realm are pervasive and inscribed in the cultural landscape of a place,” she remembers.
“Aldo is sadly missed by each of us, but his legacy is one of immense insight and perspective for the humanity of architecture and its enduring value,”
While Giurgola has an extensive body of work all over the world, his most remembered for Australians is in our Capital Territory where he, as senior partner of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects, was the principal design architect for Canberra's Parliament House. But as it happens, Giurgola wasn’t actually supposed to get the job.
In 1980, Giurgola was invited to judge the international design competition for the project, but he rejected the offer and chose to enter the competition himself. And it was just as well says former colleague Richard Graham Thorp, because it was the only entry that recognised Walter Burley Griffin’s original vision for the city.
"Griffin wasn't putting the parliament on Capital Hill, but in terms of the culmination of the axis and everything for Canberra, the parliament achieved what Griffin set out and I think Aldo won the competition because out of 329 other entries – and I've seen them all – not a single entry really related to Walter Burley Griffin," Thorp told The Australian Financial Review.
"What was so specific about that was that – and I know because I was the person at his elbow – we just followed exactly from Walter Burley Griffin's aspirations for the city and if you were to look at Griffin's plan for Capital Hill in Canberra, you'll see it's almost the imprint of the parliament now."
In 1989, Giurgola was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his efforts at Parliament House and also won the Sir Zelman Cowen Award at the National Architecture Awards in the same year. Lesser known his second Sir Zelman Cowen Award winning project, The St Patrick's Cathedral in Parramatta which he redesigned after original was destroyed by fire in 1996. Giurgola also designed the St Thomas Aquinas Catholic church in Canberra's Charnwood.
St Patrick’s cathedral at Parramatta. Giurgola and MGT architects was commissioned in 1997 for the restoration and design of the new cathedral complex after fire destroyed the previous building
Giurgola's Australian firm Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp was split into Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp and Guida Moseley Brown Architects in 1999.
QUICK CAREER SUMMARY
Giurgola’s career began in Italy, continued in the USA, and culminated in Australia. He also served as head of the department of architecture at the Columbia University, New York.
Giurgola became an Australian citizen in 2000 and in 2010 his contribution to the federal capital was commemorated by his inclusion in the Australian Capital Territory’s Honour Walk.
Throughout his career Giurgola was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, the Australian Centenary Medal and the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings (twice).