Step back in time and celebrate the 30th birthday of Parliament House

26 March 2018

Revisit the bold hues and geometric lines of 1980s Australian art, craft and design, and chart the progress of one of the country’s most ambitious building projects, at two special new exhibitions to mark the 30th birthday of Australian Parliament House.

Design in a Decade – the 1980s, features items specially commissioned as part of the extensive Parliament House Art/Craft program in the lead-up to the opening of Parliament in 1988.

The 1980s witnessed a sharp increase in the diversity and volume of art, craft and design practice across Australia. Artists appropriated symbols and designs from a range of sources and the influence of the Memphis Group of Italian designers and architects is evident in the colours and shapes incorporated into the furnishings commissioned as part of the Parliament House Art/Craft Program and in the many works acquired for the collection. Artists featured in the Design in a Decade exhibition include Jenny Kee, Robert Klippel, Colin Lanceley, Richard Larter and many more.

The construction of Parliament House within the space of a decade remains an architectural feat unrivalled in Australia. Competition to Completion – building Australian Parliament House, charts the progress of one of Australia’s most ambitious building projects from the announcement of its construction in 1978 through to the ceremonial opening by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. From the spade used by Prime Minister Fraser to turn the first sod through to the key used by the Queen to open the front door in 1988 – the objects and images in this special exhibition tell the story of the construction of an icon.

Both exhibitions are open to the public on the first floor of Parliament House until 13 May. Entry is free.

Design in a Decade – the 1980s and Competition to Completion – building Australian Parliament House, are just two of the special exhibitions and events being held in this anniversary year. Other events include an Open Day on 6 October, special lectures and musical performances, and a big birthday bash on Saturday 5 May in the Great Hall, ahead of the official birthday on 9 May. See all the details at

Oz Flora Mandala rug design by Jenny Kee
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Jenny Kee (born 1947), fabricated by Alan Holland, Bhanu Mistry and Liz Nettleton, Oz Flora Mandala (detail), 1987, Parliament House Art/Craft Program, Canberra ACT

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