Building the provisional Parliament House – Fact sheet 109
The provisional Parliament House (now known as Old Parliament House) was opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of York on 9 May 1927. It was a modest building intended to provide facilities for the legislative work of the federal government until a permanent, monumental structure could be built. With extensions and alterations it remained in service until 9 May 1988.
Architectural competition for a federal parliament building
In July 1914 an international design competition for a permanent Federal Parliament House was launched. It was suspended in September 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I. Attempts were made to revive the competition, but the huge war debt precluded the construction of any monumental buildings. In 1923 the competition was indefinitely suspended and work on a provisional building began. Official registrations had been received from more than 200 entrants, and in 1924, the Government paid compensation of £3000 in amounts ranging from £10 to £100 to 78 of the competitors.
Design and construction of a provisional building
The construction of a provisional Parliament House was investigated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1923. This committee recommended the erection of either the nucleus of a permanent building on Camp Hill or a provisional building on a site below Camp Hill. By August 1923 the second recommendation was accepted and finance approved by Parliament. The plans were prepared by the Department of Works and Railways and its chief architect, John Murdoch.
The opening ceremony, 9 May 1927
The opening of the provisional Parliament House was a gala occasion. Invitations were issued to 500 national and international official guests and a further 5000 tickets were distributed throughout Australia for seats in outside stands. The ceremony included the review of a guard of honour by the Duke of York and a reading in the Senate chamber of a message from the King. After the official proceedings, a review of 2000 troops and a Royal Australian Air Force flypast were held in York Park.
Records of the building of the provisional Parliament House
The Canberra office holds a range of records relating to the planning, construction and opening of the provisional Parliament House. The table below sets out select holdings of records relating to the architectural competition, the design and construction, and the 1927 opening ceremony.