20 May 2016

Romaldo Giurgola's architecture is forever etched on the landscape of Canberra

While many of us are familiar with, and have probably visited, the ‘House on the Hill,’ we might not know that the remarkable design of Parliament House is by architect Romaldo Giurgola, who sadly passed away this week. 

Construction of the new Parliament House, February 1985
Image Source: ACT Heritage Library image 000731
Giurgola designed Parliament House to be incorporated and subsumed by the hill; a symbol of democracy that was not towering over the people like a fortress – but one that the people themselves could wander over and through. 

Giurgola had a deep and lifelong relationship with the city of Canberra, calling it ‘the splendid place’. Born in Italy in 1920, Giurgola was an admirer of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for Canberra from his student days. Much later, when working in the US, he was asked to judge the winning design for Australia's new Parliament House. He declined the offer to judge, instead leaping at the chance to put his own entry forward. Giurgola loved Canberra from arrival in 1980 as winner of the competition over 329 other entries.  

In  his 1982 Walter Burley Griffin Memorial lecture, Giurgola spoke at length of the brilliance of Griffin’s design, as well as the importance of continuing to honour the uniquely Canberran integration of natural and built landscapes within the design of the new Parliament House. 

After the completion of the House, Giurgola designed the highly regarded St Thomas Aquinas Church in Charnwood, and built a weekend getaway home on the shores of Lake Bathurst, near Tarago. He became an Australian citizen on Australia Day, 2000 - the ceremony was held at Regatta Point, in full view of the House.

Giurgola permanently settled in Canberra in 1988, the year the House was opened, where he remained until his death on 16 May 2016.

The ACT Heritage Library holds the Walter Burley Griffin Memorial lecture that Giurgola spoke at as well as an array of publications about Parliament house from conception to construction. They can be found by searching the Libraries ACT Catalogue

Articles in local newspapers regarding the life of Romaldo Giurgola can be located using the library’s Newspaper Holdings webpage.


Giurgola, Romaldo.  1982, A place for everything and everything in its place . F.A.I.A., Walter Burley Griffin Memorial lecture, 8 September 1982, Canberra