Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Central Reference Document and other documents


5.1        Following completion of Parliament House, the former Joint House Department (JHD) commissioned the writing of a document to capture the original architect's design intent for the building. The document, The Architect's Design Intent for Parliament House Canberra: Central Reference Document (Central Reference Document–CRD), is yet to be completed. The following discusses the development of the CRD and progress towards its completion. The committee also provides information on the apparent loss of original documents from Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp (MGT) following completion of the building.

Development of the Central Reference Document

5.2        The Central Reference Document was commissioned by the JHD. Mr Mike Bolton, former secretary (1986–2004), JHD, informed the committee that the work was commissioned as:

In the first instance, JHD created a position of Design Integrity Officer within its structure to liaise with the building's architects (MGT) to provide guidance and oversight to proposed changes to the building, its furniture and fittings. A number of years later as the original architects involvement was diminishing and before their knowledge of the building was lost, JHD commissioned Ms P Berg of MGT to research and prepare a series of papers covering all aspects of the Parliament House design which eventually became the work entitled 'The Architect’s Design Intent for Parliament House Canberra: Central Reference Document'. The intent was for this document to govern the approach to proposed changes to and within the building to ensure as far as possible that the original 'Developed Design' agreed to by the Parliament was maintained.[1]

5.3        Mr Bolton went on to comment that 'JHD did not want Parliament House to go the way of many other great buildings where original design concepts which very much establish the overall building character are forgotten and changes are made according to the whims of the time'.[2]

5.4        Ms Pamille Berg, former MGT Partner, informed the committee that she worked on the draft CRD between 1999 and 2004. The draft completed in August 2004 consists of 31 chapters and was prepared in consultation with Mr Romaldo Giurgola and Mr Hal Guida. Ms Berg also commented that the draft is incomplete and requires refinement, revision and additions in order to fulfil JHD's original intention 'that the document should stand as a basic record of the Architect's design intent to be utilized in the assessment and management of proposals for change and maintenance for the specified 200-year lifespan of the Parliament House building'.[3]

Importance of the Central Reference Document

5.5        The introduction of the draft CRD describes two primary uses and functions of the document. First, to provide a timeless, permanent record of the Architect's design intent prepared by a member of the design team for the building, rather than a person who did not have a central place in the design of the building. Secondly, that it will ensure DPS and the Presiding Officers have a reference for the daily management of the Parliament House 'when decisions on functional change, proposals for alterations, and replacement of fittings and furniture are required'. The CRD is also 'intended to facilitate that ongoing management process and the need for single-issue, intermittent reference within the expression of the building design's conceptual framework of the whole'.[4]

5.6        The importance of the document was emphasised in evidence by Mr Giurgola and other witnesses. Mr Giurgola stated that the CRD 'records in our words the intent of the brief requirement and our resulting design of the building, its interiors, its symbolism, its furniture and its landscape among other essential topics'.[5] He pointed to the essential nature of the CRD in maintaining the design integrity of Parliament House:

The content of this essential document recording the design intent of the Parliament House cannot be provided by the staff of the present Department of Parliamentary Services, who perform multiple day-to-day stewardship roles that are more equivalent to those of a property management firm for a complex office park. The refinement and the completion of the central reference document will be of great importance for the future preservation of the building's essential value. But of course it cannot provide the urgently needed management strategy which needs to be prepared at a high and independent level for the parliament's gratification. This CRD can only underpin that strategy.[6]

5.7        Both Mr Guida and Ms Berg commented on the importance of the CRD, with Ms Berg stating:

I would just like to add that I hope there is not a perception that we are saying that [the CRD must be completed] because we wish to aggrandise ourselves and the design of the building. On the contrary, all we are saying is that for DPS and the external architects that are drawn in from everywhere, the fixers of timber and the other things that are done, if they are to understand what the right solution is to a renovation or a problem or an augmentation, the only way they can understand what that right solution might be is if they understand why it was ever done the way it was in the first place. So all we are trying to do is to make sure that, in the words of the primary designers and the team, this is recorded for all time as a reference.[7]

5.8        These views were supported by the Walter Burley Griffin Society which stated it was 'deeply concerned' that such a vital document as the CRD had not yet been completed. Professor James Weirick, President, commented:

Considering the significance of that document and the importance of the original architect of this building, Romaldo Giurgola, who is now in his 90s, it is essential that that document be completed.[8]

5.9        The Society went on to recommend that the CRD be completed as 'a matter of urgency'.[9]

Completion of the Central Reference Document

5.10      The importance of the CRD is recognised in the Parliament House Heritage Management Framework. The Framework provides a list of principles and actions 'to ensure effective heritage management of Parliament House'. Action 2 requires the development and maintenance of a record of building, landscape and movable heritage. The implementation strategies include that:

The Central Reference Document will be finalised. The Central Reference Document expresses the Architect's intent in the design of the building and its surroundings. The purpose of the Central Reference Document is also to ensure that the Presiding Officers and the Parliamentary departments have a text to which reference can continually be made in the daily management of the Parliament House when decisions on functional change, proposals for alterations, and replacement of fittings and furniture are required. The format of the text is intended to facilitate that ongoing management process and the need for single-issue, intermittent reference within the expression of the building design's conceptual framework of the whole.[10]

5.11      While the Heritage Framework proposes the completion of the CRD, attempts had been made by the original design team in the years between 2004 and 2011 to have the document completed. Ms Berg stated that since August 2004, fee quotes had been provided on four occasions for the completion of the CRD.[11] Mr Giurgola also commented that both the JHD and DPS had been repeatedly reminded over the past seven years that CRD has never progressed from its fifth full draft to final completion.[12]

5.12      At its hearing of 16 November 2011, Ms Berg informed the committee that the afternoon before the hearing she had received an email from DPS with a new statement of requirement for the completion, augmentation and refinement of the CRD. DPS required a quote and a detailed brief. Ms Berg commented:

It can be summarised as stating that some chapters, which we have identified many times in the past, need augmentation and completion. They have identified new chapters which they are particularly interested in because of the problems and issues they face. They have identified some larger issues about moral rights, symbolism et cetera. They have also identified an issue that we have pushed hard since 1988, and that is the saving and scanning of slide based images of the construction of the building, the human side of that construction, the design teams, the artists working et cetera, all of which are degrading fairly significantly now, as one knows, from 35-ml slide collections after what is really 30 years since many of them were taken. An additional group of those materials would be scanned, saved, used to illustrate the document and it would then be capable of being held both as the internal reference document but also potentially published as a book, which gives it an accessibility in libraries across the nation for researchers and others.[13]

5.13      Ms Berg stated that there is a substantial amount of work to do—probably two years of work to complete the document.[14] A draft response and quote was provided to DPS by Ms Berg on 15 December 2011 with the final response and quote provided on 17 February 2012.

5.14      At its hearing on 2 May 2012, the committee sought advice from DPS on the progress of the quote. Ms Judy Tahapehi, Director, DPS, stated that a quote had been received from Ms Berg. However, Ms Tahapehi stated:

We were surprised at the expense of it. We took that quote to the Heritage Advisory Board this week for their consideration. They have asked us to go back and talk to Ms Berg about some of the things that she has suggested needs to be done to see if we can reduce the quote.[15]

5.15      The Heritage Advisory Board met on 8 June 2012 to reconsider the quote for completion of the CRD. The committee notes that the briefing paper provided by DPS to the Heritage Advisory Board for its 8 June meeting included details of the history of the draft CRD and details of the work which DPS considered 'unessential' quoted for in the consultancy by Ms Berg. DPS proposed that the CRD could be finalised for around 40 per cent of Ms Berg's quote. At its June meeting, the Heritage Advisory Board agreed:

Not to progress Ms Berg's Response to Statement of Requirement: Fee Quotation for Completion of the Central Reference Document given the scale of the proposal, size of the estimate and extended timeframe from Ms Berg.

The Board agreed in principle that it was appropriate to seek quotes through Open Tender or Expression of Interest.[16]

Committee comments and conclusion

5.16      The committee has noted comments from witnesses concerning the importance of the Central Reference Document for the maintenance of the design integrity and heritage values of Parliament House. Mr Giurgola, for example, stated that both day-to-day management and processes that define the design integrity and heritage values of iconic buildings are often hampered by the lack of documentation. In the case of Parliament House, a draft document—the CRD—going to the design integrity of the building and the Architect's intent is available but requires completion. The completion of the CRD has added urgency given the age of Mr Giurgola and other key design team members.

5.17      The committee notes that DPS acknowledges the importance of the CRD as 'any proposals to develop or change the building are assessed against the original design' through the CRD. In addition, as noted above, the completion of the CRD is a required action under the Parliament House Heritage Management Framework.

5.18      The committee has been informed that the Heritage Advisory Board has not agreed to proceed with Ms Berg's quote on the grounds of the scale of the proposal, cost and timeframe. DPS's project requirement is for the CRD to be completed within a year to a standard which it believes captures the Architect's essential design intent for Parliament House so that it can be used by DPS in its decision making. The way in which Ms Berg believes that this should be achieved does not accord with DPS's project requirement.

5.19      The committee is extremely concerned that no agreement between Ms Berg and DPS has been reached to finalise the CRD and that DPS is now proposing to go to open tender or expression of interest. The committee acknowledges that DPS must ensure that projects are 'fit for purpose' and that Commonwealth funds are expended in an appropriate manner. However, the committee believes that Ms Berg's proposal encompasses work that she, in good faith, considers is required to complete a 42 chapter document with appropriate photographic illustration to a standard necessary to describing the Architect's design intent and thus establishing a key component for the protection of heritage values of Parliament House. Furthermore, the committee considers that it must be remembered that the CRD will be the primary reference document for the remaining life of the building—175 years.

5.20      The committee is also disappointed in the length of time it has taken the Heritage Advisory Board to consider the brief and quote provided by Ms Berg in light of its comments about the timeframe proposed by Ms Berg to complete the CRD. Ms Berg provided her preliminary quote in December 2011 and final quote in February 2012. The Heritage Boards decision was only finalised in early June. Given the importance and urgency for the completion of the CRD, the committee considers that the highest priority should be accorded to the completion of the CRD while providing appropriate time for it to be completed without undue haste.

5.21      The project to complete the CRD is at a critical point: the Heritage Advisory Board has not accepted the quote from Ms Berg to complete the CRD; at the same time, DPS and other stakeholders see the CRD as central to heritage protection of Parliament House. While the Heritage Advisory Board has agreed to go to open tender or expression of interest, the committee considers that it would be detrimental to the quality of the final document for someone, other than a member of the original design team, to undertake this work. In addition, any other contractor would have to familiarise themselves with a great deal of detailed information and build a relationship with Mr Giurgola. The committee does not believe that this is a viable approach and is unlikely to make the process shorter or less costly.

5.22      The committee therefore considers that the Heritage Advisory Board should re-consideration its decision and should also consider an expansion of the scope of work on the CRD to meet, fully, the vision for the completed CRD as expounded by Ms Berg.

5.23      The committee is aware of the funding constraints under which DPS is now working. With this in mind, the committee considers that a one-off additional appropriation from the Commonwealth Government of $100,000 be provided to DPS for the completion of the CRD by Ms Berg. This appropriation, in addition to the expenditure already proposed by DPS, should enable the CRD to be completed to a standard acceptable to all parties.

Recommendation 1

5.24      The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government provide the Department of Parliamentary Services a one-off additional appropriation of $100,000 to be used, together with the existing Department of Parliamentary Services allocation of funds, for the completion of the document, The Architect's Design Intent for Parliament House, Canberra: Central Reference Document, by Ms Pamille Berg.

Apparent loss of original documentation

5.25      During its hearing in November, Ms Berg informed the committee that while putting together an exhibition to coincide with Mr Giurgola's 90th birthday in 2010, the loan of some major original perspective sketches and drawings was sought from the National Archives of Australia (NAA). However, the NAA was unable to locate the items requested for the exhibition.

5.26      Ms Berg commented that material from the original design firm, MGT, was handed over to the Parliament House Construction Authority. The material was then to have been transferred to the NAA. The material is recorded as being in the holdings of the NAA and consists of about 35 boxes containing rolls of drawings and other records. Ms Berg indicated at the November hearing that the NAA was investigating what had happened to the material. An initial investigation revealed that the material was held off-site. Ms Berg suggested that the boxes of material may have mistakenly ended up with the former Department of Administrative Services and 'I believe they may have been shredded. That is my personal opinion from the anecdotal evidence we have received.'[17]

5.27      Ms Berg also noted that a large amount of records including photographs are still in the hands of GMB, the successor firm to MGT. Ms Berg suggested that there needs to be a process to ensure that the documents still in existence are appropriately archived and accessible.

5.28      Following the hearing, the NAA undertook an internal review focussed on all records created and transferred to the NAA by MGT and all relevant records relating to the design competition and subsequent construction of new Parliament House transferred to the Archives by DPS and JHD.

5.29      The NAA's review located two original concept drawings of Parliament House by Mr Giurgola. No other records noted by Ms Berg in her evidence to the committee were located. The NAA also indicated that the Department of Finance and Deregulation has undertaken action to establish the location of records noted by Ms Berg. The Department of Finance and Deregulation advised the NAA that it had not located those records.[18]

Committee comments

5.30      The committee has noted the efforts of the National Archives of Australia to locate the missing records. The committee wishes to record its grave disappointment that these significant and irreplaceable records are missing and are very unlikely to be recovered.

Senator Helen Polley

Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page