The Australian Institute of Architects is lobbying hard against the federal government’s plans to build a security fence around Parliament House in Canberra.
So disconcerted is the Institute that it has begun an online petition to have the plans put to an immediate halt so a proper public consultation process and heritage assessment can be undertaken.
The petition coincides with an appearance on national television and media release from National President Ken Maher in which he denounces the idea of erecting a 2.3-metre-high security fence around the perimeter of one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, calling 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.
“Any proposal impacting on its design needs to be subject to due public processes and be managed very carefully."
Maher is equally as concerned that the government hasn’t made the plans available for public feedback or sought consultation from the design community.
“The public has a right to know whether other methods for achieving security outcomes for parliamentarians, people working in Parliament House and visitors have been comprehensively canvassed prior to making any decision,” says Maher.
“We are also concerned that the usual National Capital Authority public consultation process will not proceed due to “security issues”. This is a matter of public interest and should be subject to the same public scrutiny as other design and development proposals within the parliamentary precinct.”
His apprehensions have already been backed up by revered Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt.
“From an architectural point of view, I think it’s terrible,” said Murcutt.
“Romaldo Giurgola designed this building so that you had very good access to the people – so it expressed freedom, it didn’t in any way express exclusivity. Putting a fence around it is putting a noose around it.”
ABANDONED PLANS AND DESIGN COMMITTEE
Maher’s concerns about the development were only made worse by the apparent abandonment of plans to create a five-year conservation management and design strategy to inform the management of the building.
It was instigated by the Department of Parliamentary Services in 2014 who then commissioned an eminent expert advisory committee to guide and finalise these documents. Architect Richard Johnson provided the design principles for the document, which were rejected, and to date no documents have been released.
“[This] further adds to our concerns about decisions being made without the professional advice of distinguished architects,” Maher said.
To sign the online petition please click here.