The Australian Institute of Architects has retreated from its position of opposition to a new security fence to be erected around the perimeter of Parliament House in Canberra.
The Institute’s online petition to stop the plans has been taken down and AIA National President, Ken Maher has spoken publicly to members stating that he had now been briefed on the project and is satisfied that it will be undertaken in a well-considered matter.
Maher and other representatives of the Institute were briefed in January by Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Robert Stefanicback who clarified that the new fence and other upgrades had been designed by local Canberra architects Guida Moseley Brown in consultation with architects who worked with Romaldo Giurgola on the original building.
"While it is unfortunate that in these times of heightened security threats additional security measures are necessary, we are satisfied the work will be undertaken in a well-considered manner, and with minimal visual impact," Maher told members.
"Importantly the proposals retain public access to the grassed ramps and internally to the base of the flag masts. We have offered some minor comments that could further reduce the visual impact."
These are a significant retreat from Maher’s previous comments made prior to the briefing.
“The erection of a 2.6-metre fence around Parliament's perimeter flies in the face of the design intent of the architect, the late Romaldo Giurgola, which has been widely lauded, including being awarded the 2013 National Enduring Architecture Award,” Maher said in December, 2016.
“The moral rights held in the building will be seriously compromised.”
But a major point of Maher’s opposition prior to the briefing was that the design community had not been engaged on project of such cultural and historical significance. The briefing appears to have appeased that concern.
Timeline for construction had not been finalised.