Petition to stop Parliament House fence plans

The Australian Institute of Architects has launched an online petition to stop the Australian government building a fence around the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, designed by Mitchell Giurgola and Thorp in 1988.

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced plans for a $60-million security upgrade to Parliament House that included installing 38 CCTV cameras and building a 2.6-metre-high perimeter fence that would prevent the public from accessing the lawns.

The fence plans have deeply outraged the Institute. In its online petition the Institute said, “This is an outrage that flies in the face of the democratic principles Parliament House was designed to uphold.”

Romaldo Giurgola, the architect of Parliament House who died earlier this year, said before his death: “The building should nestle within the hill, symbolically rising out of the Australian landscape, just as true democracy rises from the people.”

The Institute’s petition states “Parliament House is a symbol of the nation’s freedom and democracy. It is, and should remain, the people’s building. The rooftop lawns at Parliament House are at the heart of acclaimed architect, the late Romaldo Giurgola’s award-winning design. They allow Australians to walk over the heads of their politicians and are a fundamentally important reminder that parliamentarians are there to serve the people.”

To sign the petition, click here.

In addition to the petition, the Institute has also called for an urgent review of the fence plans and for the immediate release of the five-year Conservation Management Plan and Design Principles for the Australian Parliament House.

“In 2014, the Department of Parliamentary Services committed to preparing a five-year Conservation Management Plan and Design Principles to manage this highly significant building,” said the Institute’s national president Ken Maher. “An eminent expert advisory committee was commissioned to guide and finalize these documents. To date, no documents have been released. The work of this committee has reportedly been put on hold and Richard Johnson’s Design Principles report rejected, which further adds to our concerns about decisions being made without the professional advice of distinguished architects.”

“This latest proposal to erect a 2.6-metre high perimeter fence will fundamentally change the character of the building and its symbolism as the people’s house,” he continued.

“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.

“The Institute is deeply concerned about the lack of consideration of the fence’s impact on the heritage value and design of this most significant building.

“Security requirements bring into conflict the two core principles of keeping people safe while at the same time allowing them access to the building and grounds. A balance must be struck, but the current proposal fails to deliver on both fronts.

“It is essential that, on behalf of the Australian people, the fabric and intent of the design of Parliament House is protected now and into the future. Any change must be well-considered and be consistent with the quality and durability required for a building of such status.”

Plans for the security upgrades passed through both houses of parliament on the last sitting day for 2016. Last weekend, more than 300 people participated in a social media event to roll down the lawns one last time before the ban comes into place.

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