In what has caused a few eyebrows to be raised across the architecture world, a new 2.6-metre-high anti-terror fence is being erected in front of Australia’s iconic Parliament House in the nation’s capital, Canberra.
Designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects, the steel paling security fence, which was first announced in late 2016, has drawn criticism over fears that it would restrict public access to the building’s ‘front yard’.
A heritage impact assessment was carried out on the fence proposal, which found it would have “moderate impact on the heritage values of Parliament House.”
Plans for the security upgrades first passed through both houses of parliament way back in December 2016, when the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) lobbied hard against the federal government’s plans.
In fact, so disconcerted was the AIA at the time, that it started an online petition to put an immediate halt to the work.
The petition coincided with an appearance on national television and media release from then national president Ken Maher who called it ‘undemocratic and ill-considered.’
“Parliament House is widely recognised as an icon of Australian democracy and an architectural achievement of national and international significance,” Maher said at the time.
“Any proposal impacting on its design needs to be subject to due public processes and be managed very carefully."
Maher was equally as concerned that the government hasn’t made the plans available for public feedback or sought consultation from the design community.
The design of Australia’s Parliament House was the result of a competition, which Mitchell Giurgola Thorp won in 1988, with the building opening in May 1988 to mark the bicentenary of European settlement in Australia.
Other architects who spoke to Fairfax Media last year were also highly sceptical about the fence.
Canberra architect Rodney Moss said Parliament House was falling victim to "security bracket creep". "To add layers and layers of security to the building will compromise the design intent that we all thought was so fantastic," he said.
"It becomes fortress Australia, which is the complete opposite to the way the building was envisaged."