The High Court of Australia in Canberra is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of its building, with an oral history podcast tracing the history of the architecturally significant construction.
Described as an outstanding example of late modern Brutalist architecture, the High Court building was designed by the architectural firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB), which was selected following a design competition in 1973. The brief called for a monumental building that acknowledged, but was clearly independent of the Australian Parliament.
EMTB director and architect Christopher Kringas led the design of the High Court, working closely with Feiko Bouman and Rod Lawrence. After Kringas’ death in 1975, just prior to construction, Colin Madigan, who was the team leader for the National Gallery, and Hans Marelli, oversaw the construction phase of the High Court building between 1976 and 1980.
Situated on 8.4 acres of land in the Parliamentary Triangle, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin between the National Science and Technology Centre and the National Gallery of Australia (also designed by EMTB), the High Court was built by PDC Constructions (ACT) Pty Ltd at a total cost of $46.5 million. The building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 May 1980.
The 40th anniversary celebrations were postponed last year due to the pandemic.
Offering light-filled, bold geometric shapes and spaces, the 40-metre tall High Court building is monumental, asymmetrical, spacious and functional. The Public Hall features a 24-metre high ceiling supported by two large concrete pillars, and is often used as a venue for cultural exhibitions and musical concerts. The three courtrooms in the building – each designed for a different purpose – are accessed through the Public Hall. An administrative wing and Justices chambers also form part of the concrete and glass building, which has an internal floor area of 18,515 square metres.
The four-part oral history podcast traces the course of the building’s development from the decision to provide the High Court with its own magnificent building in the capital, to the debates and challenges associated with the construction, conversations with key stakeholders, and discussions about what people felt about the building.
The High Court–National Gallery Precinct was entered on the National Heritage List in 2007. The High Court building is also listed on the World Register of Significant 20th Century Architecture. In 2007, it received the Royal Australian Institute of Architects National ‘25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture’.