On this day in 1973, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced that the design for Canberra’s High Court, created by Sydney practice Edwards, Madigan, Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB) was the winner of a nationwide design competition.
An example of late modern Brutalist architecture, the EMTB design features a number of bold, rigid geometric shapes and spaces, created with raw massed concrete. Monolithic in presence, the building manages to serve as a functional space for the High Court, but also connects with the surrounding landscape.
EMTB certainly were no stranger to designing significant buildings in the nation’s capital, after creating the Australian National Gallery. Christopher Kringas, an EMTB Director, was the design lead for the High Court, working with architects Feiko Bouman and Rod Lawrence. Kringas unfortunately never saw the building become a reality, passing away in 1975.
The competition brief asked designers to acknowledge the design of Parliament House, without simply mimicking it. Over 150 designs were submitted for the competition, with EMTB taking out the design contract for the building.
EMTB devised a 40-metre high structure made of concrete and glass. The building comprises a large public hall, with three courtrooms, an administrative wing and Justices chambers. Some 18,400 cubic metres of concrete was used in the build, with 4,000sqm glazed areas also housed within the building. The internal floor area of the building itself amounts to roughly 18,515sqm.
Construction, undertaken by PDC Constructions, began in 1975, with completion coming in 1980. The total cost of the project was valued at $46.5 million. Queen Elizabeth II travelled to Canberra to cut the ribbon on 26 May 1980.
Both the High Court and adjacent National Gallery were entered on the National Heritage List in 2007. The High Court itself is listed on the World Register of Significant 20th Century Architecture. For more information regarding the building, click here.