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Content WindowFinance and Public Administration Legislation Committee - 16/11/2011 - Performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services
BERG, Ms Marcia Pamille, Private capacity
GIURGOLA, Mr Romaldo, Private capacity
GUIDA, Mr Harold Seymour, Private capacity
Committee met at 10:04
CHAIR ( Senator Polley ): The committee will now commence its inquiry into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services. I welcome Mr Romaldo Giurgola, MGT architect and founding partner; Ms Berg; and Mr Guida. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. The committee has each of your submissions. We thank you for your participation in this inquiry. I understand each of you will have a short opening statement. At the conclusion of your remarks we will proceed with questions and some discussion.
Mr Giurgola : Thank you for the opportunity to make some opening remarks at the beginning of this hearing. The topics before us, centring on the issue of ongoing preservation of new Parliament House and its core values over time, are important to all Australians. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to talk with you about this. Architects often say that when one of their buildings is completed it ceases to belong to them as the originators or designers and starts to belong to everyone. I feel the same way at this moment.
Our task throughout the entire design and construction of Parliament House was to focus continuously on making clear those essential principles, among many others of course, that defined the character and the meaning of the building. These broad design principles arose from the confluence of a multitude of factors from the pragmatic to the symbolic. These principles include, first, the significance of the building as a democratic forum for the nation of Australia; second, making the process of government visible and accessible to the public; third, the building design as a symbolic sequence of spaces with reference to Australia's historical and cultural evolution over time; and, finally, the design of Parliament House as a workplace which was intended to enhance the health and wellbeing of all occupants, which I think is important because it becomes a model for everyone to look to.
The design of the Parliament House complex was a response to those principles by means of the carefully calibrated scale and relationships among its symbolic elements including the chambers, the Members Hall, the offices, the public areas, the encompassing curved walls and, most importantly, the landscape and the topography of the site with its subtle connections to the land of Australia and some recollection of the Aboriginal presence here in terms of the hill and mound relationship. That was in the back of our mind too.
At this moment, 23 years after the opening of Parliament House, the building complex has reached a critical point in which it is neither very new, which is a time in any building's life when change is usually resisted, nor old enough to be innately and widely valued for considered, careful preservation. At the start of the international design competition for the building and later at the outset of its detailed design, our firm was provided by the NCDC and the Parliament House Construction Authority with the best design brief I have ever experienced in the 60 years of my professional life. That design brief required a lifespan of 200 years for the building, and we took that point seriously in terms of the symbolic, practical, stylistic intent and detailing of the building.
Since 1988, on behalf of our firm, Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects, I have held and exercised the moral and intellectual property rights to the design of Parliament House. In part because of this I had ongoing contact during the past two decades, first with the Joint House Department as the building care giver, and subsequently with the Department of Parliamentary Services, at those points when I was notified of proposals for significant changes in the building, its interior and its grounds.
However, during that period the absence of an essential approved strategic policy framework and professional management of change process for the Parliament House capable of long-term preservation of the complex value of the national project has been apparent on many occasions. Of particular concern is the lack of sufficient measures which recognise and preserve the integrity or the wholeness of the design intent and the relatedness across all aspects of the Parliament House, ranging from its building fabric to the chair construction or carpet pattern or configuration of the park on the landscape.
A key document initiated by the original Secretary of the Joint House Department, Michael Bolton, entitled The Architect’s Design Intent for Parliament House, Canberra: Central Reference Document, was commissioned to our firm and prepared by my partner at MGT Pamille Berg in close consultation with Mr Harold Guida and myself. This massive five-volume draft 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. However, as we have repeatedly reminded both the Joint House Department and DPS over the past seven years, this document has never progressed from its fifth full draft into final completion. 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.
It is important for your inquiry to understand that presently there is no requirement under the moral right legislation for me, or eventually following my death for my key former MGT colleague in the building design, to actively consult on proposals for change of the design of the building. There is also no requirement for our advice, when given, to be followed. I have been at times very distressed to find specially designed and procured lifetime furniture that was specially designed and hand fabricated—terracotta planters, for example, custom light fittings and the special fit-out of the interior areas—has been decommissioned and sold off. Even more painful to me has been the intermittent redevelopment of underground and undercroft areas of Parliament House for permanently occupied office space in areas intended originally only for storage and maintenance activities. In my view, this underground insertion of offices stands as a contradiction to the most essential of our design principles regarding the provision of a good work spaces for every worker and has become a bad model, of course. In some cases—not all—they supplant part of the much-needed storage and maintenance activities for the building, which can be accommodated there. This can also cause a cascading effect of other unfortunate contingent decisions on the selling-off of items for which no future storage is available and which may require leased remote storage space beyond the financial means of DPS and the parliament.
In order to protect and preserve this important building, a workable strategy with an essential framework of checks and balances on the competing and different interests within the building is urgently required. These checks and balances on advice and decision making need to be formulated utilising the different kinds of knowledge and expertise which are essential for the proper preservation of the architecture and symbolic integrity of Parliament House. The advice required needs to include, firstly, senior expertise from the relevant professions of architecture, urban design, landscape, interior design, history and heritage management; secondly, the expertise of key internal stakeholders—senior staff members of the House, the Senate and executive departments, members and senators, departmental library and so on—with respect to understanding and projecting the function and tradition of Parliament House; thirdly, the knowledge and vision of external stakeholders: carefully selected key members of the public, both local and national, who have distinguished themselves through their dedication to the perpetuation and preservation of living cultural icons in Australia such as this building; and, finally, the embedded knowledge and experience of the day-to-day management of this functional building within its long-term care givers, important technical staff and administrators.
It is not my place to define here the structure of these checks and balances on decisions for change in Parliament House; however, I believe that, when the parliament has at last entrenched a model process of carefully crafted strategic policy in the protection of essential design values and management of change in the building, then the Australian people can feel assured that in the future such decisions on change will have been made as wisely as possible, utilising the expertise of both experts and stakeholders and forging a responsible way forward.
Mr Guida : The core of my very brief submission to the committee is a perceived need on my part for the parliament to establish an independent body to provide strategy, guidelines—appropriate conservation management of the building. In that submission I referred to the Parliament House Construction Authority as an independent body that gave advice to the parliament and brought decision making ultimately to the parliament but stood free from the daily responsibilities of operating any departments within the parliament. That kind of process seems to me to be in place in other locations, and the parliament could investigate and perhaps determine from best practice around the world how other conservation managers provide guidance to other capital buildings, to university buildings, to state capitals and so forth. One could look internationally for practice along these lines.
I might add parenthetically that, when we were working on the parliament in the 1980s, I visited Westminster on several occasions and met with the Serjeant at Arms, who facilitated my investigations and discussions about their operations. On one occasion, sitting in his office, he told me that he had in that small office of his the only collection of original furniture in the building, that nowhere else in the building was there a complete suite of office furniture or a conference room of furniture, that things had just over the years been let go. So one can see in that case that, in a relatively short time—100 years perhaps but nevertheless a short time—a great damage can be done to a great work, which Westminster of course is. So my recommendation is to consider an investigation into best practice, looking at other entities that carry out conservation management in a building that is used on a daily basis.
Ms Berg : I think the letter that I provided tried to make clear some very simple things about what it means to maintain the design intent and the design integrity of this building over the long term. Rather than repeating those, I would like to say a few things and then make a few statements which are quotes from essential papers that were provided to the parliament at the time that the design was being approved. These statements are fundamental statements previously agreed and understood by the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House. In a way, I think they can inform the discussion that you may be interested in having today subsequently.
It is important to understand what is involved when we say, 'What is the methodology and the means by which we can reconcile the often hugely conflicting interests and needs and desires that a complex building like this has to answer among architects, presiding officers, members of parliament, heads of departments and the staff who work in the building, with the huge pressures on maintenance budgets and moneys, the considerations of functional change, of technical change, of climate change on landscape requirements and water requirements and fountain requirements?' We do not need to list any more of those to understand how difficult this task potentially is. It is not simply a task of saying, 'As long as the flagpole doesn't disappear off the top of the building and the forecourt does not have cars parked in it, we're okay.' This is a building which was briefed and conceived not just to last 200 years but, so importantly, it was a building about which the brief said to the international design competition participants: 'This building must carry meaning. It must carry content. It must carry deep and enduring and multivalent symbolism.'
So the task that we are talking about is all of those mechanistic tasks done by any highly intelligent, well-trained property management organisation that also has the layers of function which are peculiar and special to the parliament to deal with. But it has this other task which I think probably needs to be the most fundamental test of the management of change—process, policy and strategy—that has to be put in place, and that is: how is it that first of all we perpetuate an understanding of the deep meaning and character that is invested in the design of that building at all levels, not just the building form but the character and proportion and materials and light and progression through its interior spaces, each of the materials that was used and the characterisation about what it means that this was a parliament built at the end of the 20th century in Australia, rather than in India or in New York or in South America somewhere?
So how we preserve meaning is the fundamental issue for what kind of management of change and what kind of maintenance of design intent we have to come up with—or, rather, you as the parliament have to come up with.
To quickly set the stage for understanding that, I have three short quotes that I would like to read you from a paper which Aldo Giurgola gave to Sir Billy Snedden, as the Speaker of the House, and the joint standing committee in 1982, which is called 'Reflections on the Parliament House and an Australian national spirit'. It is already an unusual and remarkable thing that in the making of this building the architect was attacking and addressing this issue of meaning. The first quote is: 'This building, contrary to other landmarks, cannot possibly depend upon the single artistic gesture of its external form to remain memorable. It must, rather, exist for all Australians as an accessible, familiar, readable environment'—and that word 'environment' is very important—'evoking memories and thoughts while stimulating actions, being at the same time a meeting house and a forum, explanatory in its forms rather than ambiguous in its associations. Hence, the formulation of the interior of the building and its details is as crucial as the original design of its basic exterior form. Just as that exterior form is expressive of democracy in a harmonious relationship with the natural state from which government involves, so also the interior must consist of spaces and surfaces capable of conveying the rich character of the Australian democratic spirit. This is not merely an attempt to embody aspirations towards noble ideals in the Parliament House, as most public buildings have sought to do since the classical and Renaissance periods. Rather, this building should in addition attempt to elucidate what is. It should be an expression of the collective spirit of the Australian people in all their diversity, revealing the sources of their strength, their talent and their will towards the future.' I think that sets us back on our heels very squarely in terms of the seriousness of the task that we are all facing.
I have two last quotes to help set this direction. Aldo also said: 'A visual image is a powerful expression of thought. Other modes of expression often pale before such visual images and by contrast appear merely auxiliary. The architecture of the parliament must function as an image that is symbolic on a very complex level.' Again, there is that phrase 'symbolic on a very complex level'. 'There is a special maturity in Australian culture which comes from its realisation that Australia's dichotomy's intentions are too vast to be resolved but rather are existing conditions to which life must be adapted. This acceptance of dual conditions and the ability to look beyond them to a set of values surpassing those contradictions suggests a form of cultural sophistication which in its own way surpasses many Western societies' insistence on viewing all human situations in an either/or context.'
That leads to the last quote, which is a quote about the whole question of why the excellence of this building matters and why, when we are trying to figure out how the parliament can institute the management of change process in the most serious way, we have to maintain an excellent place. What does that have to do with a form of discussion for the nation? As long as we have some chairs around a table and the water glasses there, isn't that sufficient for the quality of the discussion to determine the future of the country?
Aldo's document also states: 'It is crucial that a sense of excellence should be all pervasive throughout the parliament. Such an excellence rests on how well the building responds to its meaning rather than upon the richness of materials, preciousness of design and technological exploits. In fact, just such a grandiosity of materials or false impressiveness of design or technology is in direct opposition to the excellence compatible with the Australian character and spirit described above. Rather, it must be an excellence based upon the honesty of skilled work, the love and proximity to the natural materials of the land and the slow development of original forms drawn from rich and complex cultural interweavings. As a result, crafts and craftsmanship should play a particularly sensitive role in the conveying of the meaning in new Parliament House.'
I think we are all talking about a very simple thing. If we understand that it is the depth of meaning of complex symbolism, which is at both the monumental scale of the building and the intimate scale, as part of what the value of this remarkable project that the nation somehow managed to build at the end of the 20th century, if that is what we were trying to produce, then who has the expertise and is doing this best in the world? How can the system that is capable of putting this together at the best of world practice be the framework that we set in place with full knowledge of what this place is and was intended to be and what is interlaced there?
Lastly, in the ensuing discussion it is possible for us to give you examples, should you ask, of what the remarkable accomplishments in this building are not by simply the architects but by the whole of the country because each element of the parliament's making—the furniture program, for example—carried with it a series of carefully thought out subgoals about the use of Australian timbers, about ceasing to use rainforest timbers, about elucidating the capacity we had to be sustainable et cetera. Those are the messages that need to be preserved, perpetuated and further defined in this management of change process that you may be involved in setting up.
CHAIR: Firstly, I again thank you for your submissions and for making yourselves available today. I think it goes without saying that, as current residents of the federal parliament, it is our responsibility to ensure that the integrity and the design are kept because it is a national icon of our democracy. I do not think we can undervalue that. To have the team that was there at inception and saw it through is of great value to the committee. I also put on record that this is only one element of our inquiry. Our sole focus is not on the heritage value, although it is a very important part of it.
In relation to the overall integrity—and that has, obviously, been highlighted through not only your own submissions but others—do you believe that the Department of Parliamentary Services has an adequate and full appreciation of the integrity of the design of the building and what is required to maintain those design factors and to ensure that the maintenance and ongoing programs are adequate for the initial requirements that were set out in designing the new building?
Mr Guida : I think that is a difficult question. Our firm, Guida Moseley Brown, the successors to MGT, are doing work with DPS now. I think that they take the work seriously, but I think there is a missing link between the references they might make to a chapter or a portion of this draft central reference document and a comprehensive kind of guidance and concept of how management could take place using a document of this sort. I think it is fair to say this document is not the management tool; it is the recording of ideas and concepts. So there is this gap I think between the need to get something done—they are attempting to use this, but there is a strategy gap, if you will, that is in place.
Mr Giurgola : We have a situation where there is an agency, DPS, that is not equipped to have a comprehensive view of the problem—the issue of the existence of this parliament as a focus of a nation. It is managing matters that are very down to earth and they give an immediate response without a second thought. They do the best that they can with their own structure, but they cannot rely only on the presence of a moral right holder like myself because I only come occasionally and they do not have to listen to what I say. So, if there are outside pressures that are bigger, they go ahead with that, as is the case with the occupancy of the storage space. I made it evident many times to them the insufficiency that they have. I think this is a problem that is of interest to the whole nation. Every citizen should be concerned about that.
I had a wonderful situation a few days ago. I was invited to a farewell dinner for the people that describe the building, the guides. I heard illustrations of a number of episodes that happened during visits to the parliament. It was an extremely interesting experience because they could go through the spectrum of enthusiasm to criticism—a very humanistic approach. Probably what is missing in the delivery of the Department of Parliamentary Services is a humanistic presence that really can be given only through a spectrum of expertise in the values field and not just to treat it like you would any kind of commercial office building. It is a very important situation. There are many parliament buildings around the world, but each one represents something in a certain way that identifies it as a parliament. That is very significant, as it is the forum of a society.
Ms Berg : Aldo was saying that, with the expertise required to have both the long-term strategic vision as well as the highly difficult management of change policy and strategy and day-to-day procedures, it would be very unrealistic to assume that the expertise for a building of this class would sit within the Department of Parliamentary Services. I can imagine that you deal with issues every day where parliamentarians do not have among themselves, their own office or departmental staff the experts in the world to advise them on other complex issues. There would never be any expectation that you have that.
When we think about the structure under which this building was designed and constructed, it is instructive not in terms of saying, 'This is the structure for management of change' but it shows you what actually produced the building that we have today. I think that in some respects to have expectations that are unrealistic about what the DPS staff in its current form can do would be equivalent if we, the architectural firm with all the consultants, had only been reporting to the Parliament House Construction Authority, which after all had an architect. It had other significant senior servants. They watched us closely. They questioned us closely. We were put to the test by their degree of surveillance and approvals process but then, everything that we did—and, Howard, you can talk in more detail about this—went to the authority board. The authority board had some of the most senior planners, engineers, architects in the country on it. Only when the authority board was satisfied—and we are talking about on a monthly basis—with our design of what we were doing did that ever go forward to the joint standing committee on Parliament House with equal numbers of senators and members. That body had to approve as well.
Many of us spent as much as much as 24 hours a month in presentations to these very ordered and very serious committees in order to get that mutual sense of check and balance where the interests of the construction authority might well not be the interests of the board and most certainly was probably not the interests of both sides of parliament.
That is why it is so important to say there is a different kind of structure that is required here if we are going to deal with those competing interests, and the independence of that structure is important. How can you both be the people who are given the money and you have to decide whether to polish the front door, replace the carpets that are fraying in the lifts and simultaneously decide whether you should spend some of that money on making clear the symbolic progression of spaces within the building? They are two very different kinds of pressures and requirements.
CHAIR: In relation to the submission that we have received thus far there are certainly assertions that the building has not been preserved as it has aged as adequately as it should. Could you outline what you perceive as the key challenges for insuring the preservation as the building ages.
Mr Guida : From observation, the most significant challenge is a sense that the building as it exists can continuously be occupied with more and more people. That people can go anywhere in any size of space is a kind of attitude that if we can take a request from a department and satisfy it by putting someone somewhere then that is good enough. That seems to me to be the single biggest challenge. It is not about the fabric. The building is cleaned well. It is maintained. The public spaces look good. The grounds are well done. All of those things seem to be done very well, but there seems to be a response to the pressures that must come from parliamentarians or departments to increase staff numbers and occupancy on the hill rather than in Treasury or East Block, West Block, whatever it might be, that is significant pressure.
Ms Berg : Similarly, at the time that the building was being designed at a number of points, our architectural firm suggested that it would have been key to buy up the properties that surround the outside of the circle, which after all were houses that were selling at that time for the princely sum of $300,000. At same time, when we first started Parliament House, Aldo Giurgola and our firm in the States had a commission from the US Capitol to prepare a 75-year master plan for the precinct surrounding Capitol Hill—not the building, not the parking lots, not the verge but the whole precinct that was the interface between the residential building and the congress. That 75-year master plan was facing the fact, which the US congress had already faced a long time ago, of having remote office buildings connected by tunnels, underground trains and lots of things, because they too tore up the innards of the US congress before they realised that they were never going to keep stuffing more functions, more technology, more change into the building.
Like all of these questions, the key thing that we have to ask ourselves overall as a community and as a parliament is: how much do we want to make the determination now that we save this place, as opposed to coming back in 20 years and doing $100 million worth of renovations and restoration or, like the White House in the US, spending millions of dollars buying back the original furniture designed for the building piece by piece from individuals and institutions? That has been going on for 50 years since suddenly people realised what they had lost.
I guess my view from the outside is slightly different from Hal's about the degree of maintenance. I think there is a huge effort, particularly by the long-term technical staff and individuals within DPS, to keep the building well. You know and I do not know what the funding is for the department as a whole and what is able to be spent on the building. I have heard that over the period of, say, the last 13 years there has been a roughly 30 per cent drop in the money which is available to maintain the building. When you then take inflation and the fact that the maintenance requirements are inevitably rising because it is getting older—it is not new anymore—that is a very significant impost.
I think some of the decisions that have to be made by the parliament are: is it worth really trying to keep this building in fine national icon condition, or is it just going to be too hard? Do we let it roll down and then find another $3 billion at the end to replace it, fix it or build another one, or do we realise that we have to put increasing amounts of money into it so that it is a representation of us to the world and to ourselves? It is equivalent to a five-star hotel, with everything in its place, everything considered. We are putting our welcome mat out today. What does that mean? I certainly remember what my Danish mother thought it meant in terms of the precision and pristine condition of how we present ourselves to the world. That is partly what this is. So we need money as well as the conviction of the parliament as a whole that it is worth doing; otherwise we should really just say it is not.
Mr Giurgola : There is another issue related to that. The fact is that in the near future the building will need quite a bit of enlargement because of the population increase and so on. It is a very important issue that requires a judgment that it has to be generated for a large audience. For instance, there are areas where there are now parks that will probably inevitably in the near future be occupied by buildings. We do not really have an instrument. Up to now the selection of professionals for changing inside has been very casual and very difficult to control. This is a building that will require a firm and clear hand at the top level of the profession, so it will be necessary to formulate a system that allows that, to guarantee the presence of the best quality of advice that you can get. I think it is very important to understand in this way the participation of various intellects, let us say, into the issue of preservation of the building. It cannot just be given by heritage agencies, because those agencies are there to save forever something. But here we have to save forever something that keeps changing all the time, inevitably, and I think it should be. What is important is maintaining the wholeness of the old system and the symbolism that is so particular to this place, to this nation—not borrow it from left and right and so on.
CHAIR: I want to elaborate on the concerns you raised in terms of furnishings that have been sold off. We are here today because of concerns that were raised about billiard tables being sold off. In my short period of time of being in the Senate, other issues have been raised in relation to flower pots being sold off. In my home state of Tasmania in the 1970s the Tasmanian parliament was 'seventies-ised'. They really destroyed what was a beautiful parliament. It has taken a lot of money to restore that. Obviously common sense has prevailed and there has been a buying back of the furniture. In terms of ensuring the integrity of the parliament, could you put on record your concerns in relation to the furnishings, the changes that have been made and the items that have been sold off?
Mr Guida : I do not know a lot about what has been sold off, other than what I hear in the press. But I have had the experience, on several occasions, of having telephone calls and emails from people who have found elements from the fabric of the building, who have said, 'I found this in the trash and I recognise it as something from parliament.' You might recognise that, during the years we designed the building, there were hundreds of architects and engineers associated with the design team, so there is a large community out there who recognises pieces of the building if they see it. As the successors, we get the phone calls and emails that say, 'What is going on? I know this is such and such.' It has concerned us, as you can imagine, when it has happened.
In our case, we have sent that information on to DPS and asked the question, 'What is happening that this could occur—that these things have been seemingly tossed out?' We have had reassurances from them that they are taking every effort, through internal programs, for that not to happen anymore. I think that is a process of evolution within DPS of being more aware than perhaps they were previously. It might be because of the generation of this hearing as well that that has become a larger concern within DPS; I do not know. But we have had reassurances that they are taking efforts against it. There is a community that recognises those things, and it concerns them that aspects of the heritage, as you had in Tasmania, or as we have seen in other places, start becoming commonplace enough that they can end up in the trash.
Ms Berg : I think part of this is the bigger question. The reason that Hal paused, I believe, before he answered is that, when one thinks about the loose furnishings of Parliament House, the furniture program for Parliament House was a massively complex thing but also a wonderful thing. I think it is worth stating a few sentences about the history. Hal knows this intimately, as does Aldo. When we first started on the interior of the building, there were the usual Public Service standards about furnishings. When one thinks about the three rooms of a member's office, the secretary sitting out the front—when there was a world in which there were secretaries—was going to have the level 3 furniture appropriate to a secretary. The staff in the office next door were going to get a level 2 version of Public Service furniture and the actual parliamentarian who sat in their office was going to get something called level 1.
When we were given these requirements early on, essentially we said, 'It does not make a whole lot of sense for you to see one level of stuff as you walk in the door and then this mixture inside. What does that say about who we are and how we think about ourselves? In particular, what does that say about the dignity of the worker as opposed to the dignity of the parliamentarian and our pluralist democracy?' So a lot of work went into saying, 'Let's design a furniture program for the whole of the building in which there are not these status levels. You do not define who you are by the chair that you finally get to sit in when you are 50.' Instead we talked about what a good workplace is. That is a part of what Aldo was talking about—the model.
Because in the early 1980s there was not the furniture-making capacity in Australia at the reasonably high level let alone at the 200-year level it became clear that it was an opportunity, given the huge amount of money that was going to have to be spent on furnishing a building that had nearly 4,500 rooms when you added all the cubicles, to almost give a first stage board towards high-quality furniture design and production in the country. The result at the time was that well over 123 different furniture items were designed from scratch, prototyped and put into production. We were able to identify small family furniture companies working in various parts of regional Australia who had the quality standards to do that.
There is so much more to say about this. This was not just about architects having fun and doing some squiggles and getting things manufactured. It was a conscious attempt to ask, 'What can we do with Australian species of timber rather than just raiding the rainforest or getting it imported? What can we do to show the skills of Australia? What can we do to get that continuous sense of quality throughout the building as a whole, with some language variation?'
When you hear that we or others are concerned about the selling-off of furniture, the first thing that people need to understand is that program in its entirety. Does the current draft of the central reference document fully document that? No, it could not. So we have to know why. We need to know what. And then we need to know what the policy implications are of continuing that or of saying, 'It is all too hard; let's do something else.'
I would like to say just one other thing. One of the other instances of the selling off that makes it difficult for the staff and, particularly, the consultants to DPS to follow these things through is if you take the example of the terracotta planter pots. Each of you know when you walk through the Members Hall that there are the four huge pots that sit in the corner. They were commissioned through the art program as a special commission to a ceramicist named Cameron Williams, who at that time as an AFL footballer was the only person in Australia who had long enough arms to be able to raise pots nearly a metre-and-a-half high. They are by themselves a remarkable feat. Those were protected under the art program and have continued to be known and protected under the art collection. Cameron was also commissioned through the furniture program to specially design and hand fabricate hundreds upon hundreds of the terracotta planters that are used in the seating groups. They came from the same person, they were designed for the building and had the same care and the same quality. But because those were seen as part of a procurement process they have not had the degree of protection that the items that were actually commissioned under the art program did, even though it was the same person who did this similar quality of work. That is where the knowledge of the accomplishments of hundreds and thousands of people in this building needs to underpin those decisions about, 'What can you get rid of? What should you get rid of? What should you save?' As Aldo says, simply trying to understand things as heritage requirements is not a way that is going to pick up those kinds of fundamental issues.
Mr Giurgola : I just want to add that what is required is a comprehensive view all the time. This is not an ordinary building. It involves the whole community of Australia. Where does their focus go when they have to find a relationship with their community? They come to Canberra. They visit the parliament. That is a wonderful success that this building has, because there are thousands of visitors every day from all over the world, but from here too. I would not say there is a collective spirit in the building, embedded in the building, but the presence of every single person is signified in this place. It is very important to make a proper judgment. Who can make a judgment on the changes that could happen here? It is going to change. Who is going to do that?
I scribbled down the expertise that could do this. A sense of collective judgment is very important. It is a unique building. You cannot compare it with anything else. Unfortunately, we have lots of expertise in this world and lots of communication—lots of things—but we are waiting for the significant one. There are always a few. I am not thinking of a master who has to come in. We work as a community all the time. We work together on many issues, from the artwork to the design to the technology, and so on. I have experience in working with lots of factors. Why not continue this sense of collective work in the one place where we represent the essence of the collective? I am sorry about my emphatic statement, but I think I have to sum up in that way.
Senator FAULKNER: I can assure Mr Giurgola that we are politicians, so we are used to emphatic statements, so not to worry! I will start on what we have just been canvassing: the central reference document. Ms Berg and Mr Giurgola, you both stated the critical importance of the work on this document being completed, and I think it is fair to say that you, Mr Guida, have at least hinted at that, if not said it in such clear terms. There seems to be a strong view about the importance of this occurring. I would be interested in understanding this: what sort of time and what sorts of resources do you believe would be involved in completing that work? I think I understand the importance you place on it being completed. What will it take to do it?
Ms Berg : Yesterday afternoon at about three o'clock I received an email from DPS with a new statement of requirement for the completion, augmentation and refinement of the central reference document. They have now asked us to provide a quote within the next two weeks, with a fairly detailed brief. 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.
The quick answer to your question is that there is a substantial amount of work to do. Since receiving that statement of requirement yesterday I was lying awake in the middle of the night trying to count up the weeks and the hours. My guess is that, in reality, it probably is two years of work to complete it, with a first year doing the substantial part of that. Because this document, while written by me, was fully read and approved by Aldo, and in most chapters also by Hal Guida because Hal was the coordinator of design during Aldo's absences, clearly we all know the urgency of getting on with that work while Aldo is still well and with us, albeit 91 years old. So my guess is that it probably is a two-year project to do that. That can be translated into dollar terms, but I do not think that is what we are talking about.
I would just like to add that I hope there is not a perception that we are saying that this must be done 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.
Senator FAULKNER: Did you get any understanding from your communications with DPS why they have suddenly had this blinding flash of insight that this is now required?
Ms Berg : No.
Senator FAULKNER: They might have read yours and Mr Giurgola's submissions, hopefully.
Ms Berg : I think we allow ourselves only to be very glad that this invitation has now been made. There are I think in my files four fee quotes that I have provided in the last eight years urging degrees of completion, but I think it is essential that we focus on now finding the money to do it and getting it done in the proper way.
Senator FAULKNER: In terms of your deep professional interest and engagement in the matters that you have been discussing and the interface with the managers of the building since its completion, are any of you in a position to be able to reflect on how that has changed or evolved, particularly given that previously the association was directly with the old Joint House Department and it is now with the Department of Parliamentary Services?
This committee is looking at a range of issues in relation to the Department of Parliamentary Services. If you have any insights about your own engagement and how effective that has been—whether it is better now than it was, whether it is not as good as it was and any insights into how that might have changed—that would be useful. You may not be able to provide those, but if you can it would be helpful. Is it better or is it worse?
Mr Guida : I think it is better. I think it is better than five years ago. There was a period in which we declined to show interest in projects because the administration of the department—I cannot remember whether it was called Joint House or DPS then—five, six, seven years ago was particularly difficult. I think in general it is better, from a sense of understanding that there is significance to the building and what has to be done. That does not set aside my suggestions earlier that another kind of organisation perhaps ought to be in place.
If I might just take a moment here, I was thinking about something as Pam was talking about this document. One of the reasons that it is important to do this, I think, can be described as the understanding that we all have of visiting historic places, mostly, that have a real impact on you—Venice, Rome, parts of London—where the environment is cohesive, where there has been an incremental building of an architectural language over generations, over hundreds of years perhaps. If we think just about Rome and the renaissance period, there was a language of architecture that every architect understood and they could each do a different design in response to a brief, an orientation, a building, whether it faced a square or a street—different kinds of clients—within a language of architecture work that was shared through the culture.
We are in a period now where, quite frankly, architecture is a free-for-all and everyone is an authority on their own account. You will have seen the buildings, wherever they might be around the world, one next to the other and it looks like a kind of shopping cart of elements, each for a different kind of attitude about what is correct. I think the central reference document tries to say: 'These are the conditions in which this building was designed'—the ideas and concepts—so that future architects, professionals, have a reference to which they can try to make a best fit. You would think that that best fit is what has made a place like Rome or Santa Barbara a really satisfactory place to be in, that allows people to work over many generations in a considered way.
Ms Berg : I think it would be worth saying that there was a period after the first 10 years following the opening of the building—between 1988 and 1997—where I think it was difficult for Joint House to do much more than deal with the completion of the building, because there was still a lot of completion happening after May 1988. They had to make sure that they could actually keep the chillers going and the pool clean and so forth, because it was a huge technological thing to begin to grab. There was a huge effort that was made to get the engineering specifications and working processes and so forth in place, and almost no effort in that early period—because of the giant scramble of the changeover—to secure design documents, to secure design approaches, to do anything like this document. In 1997-98, the secretary of Joint House was Michael Bolton. He had been here and went to the new building and had, I believe, a deep and abiding dedication to the parliament in the biggest picture as well as the details. He put into place, via the consultancies back to our firm, the trying to set up a design integrity group. He also appointed a chief architect for the parliament. That had not happened previously. A chief engineer was instituted early on but no chief architect. That single sentence speaks well about what the pressures were at the time. What is important is that, at the time that he determined that he was going to set up an integrated management process for design integrity and design intent, he had control of his department. He set up an interdepartmental committee, which at that time was called the IDIAC, that met to deal with the crossover issues involved in dealing with change. Within the Joint House Department as it existed at that time they already understood that there had to be a very formal process to create continuity in the decisions that were being made.
In 1998, I pulled out one of the old reports about instituting the new design integrity management process. It said: 'The legacy of 10 years of building functions without a carefully structured set of procedures and strategies to deal with these complex issues is that each individual project arising within the building carries with it significant policy implications, which set precedents.' That statement, made 13 years ago, talks about what we are talking about, which is that each project, whether we know it or not, starts to determine policy and sets precedents.
What has happened in the interim period with the mega-department versus what the Joint House Department was doing at that time with more direct control over these processes after realising that there had to be formal overarching processes that led back to the parliament is questionable. You know more about that. But the reference back to the original understanding of the building and its intent has always been a sine curve in the 23 years since the completion of the building. Within the first 18 months of the completion of the building, the parliamentary dining room—the members' dining room—was ripped out and completely refitted with no reference to MGT as the architects. It was redesigned by someone else and stuffed in. What was lost when it was ripped out were things like specially commissioned fabric wall panelling by Keiko Amenamori Schmeisser, one of Australia's internationally known fabric designers. All of that disappeared into the hoppers.
From the very beginning, there was a determination by the parliament to cut the umbilicus with the original architect. That is a normal thing that happens in many buildings. Owners are very glad to get rid of the architects at last and at that moment of true tiredness. But then that sine curve came back. My own feeling from working within this process intensively over the years is that there was at that 10-year mark a serious realisation that something cohesive and comprehensive had to be done and they tried to put it in place. Since that time, I have probably had contact with DPS since it came into existence on only four occasions, if I am not mistaken.
Senator FAULKNER: Are you surprised by that?
Ms Berg : Given the urgency of putting in place a process to document the why before we all fall under the bus, I am. I am saddened by that. It would be different if there someone else had been able to pull that process forward in a cohesive way, but I do not think that that happened.
Senator FAULKNER: From what I have read in terms of the background to the inquiry and also in submissions—and I will try and use moderate language—there are certainly concerns about the issue of moral rights engagement. I want to look at that specifically, as opposed to the broader issues that we have just canvassed about broader consultation with all of you in terms of your professional expertise. Whoever would like might care to comment on how satisfactory or unsatisfactory that engagement is in the moral rights area. From what I have seen and read, I suspect there are some concerns there.
Mr Giurgola : Yes, that is true. Moral rights is a very equivocal kind of statement in the end. I have put this in my will. Apparently there is only one way in which I can be listened to about that. Contained in my will is a suggestion that the two partners that worked with me for many years could continue with this, but I do not know the legal value of that. I have been told that in general it has been observed in that way. But I hope that that could happen.
Senator FAULKNER: You would be hoping it will not be tested for a great deal of time, of course.
Mr Giurgola : That is right! To come back to this list of senior expertise that I made, it seems to me very attractive. I do not know how to formulate this structurally, but it seems to me it is a very attractive way to establish continuity of thought. In other words, we should not to step from one person to another, calling an architect in from outside with his own idiosyncrasies, who does not have anything to do with the parliament itself, who does not even have anything to do with the collectivity at large or even the principles encompassed in this parliament. That is very dangerous because this is something Australians have to work with. The place needs continuity if it is to last for a long time. So I think it would be useful to have this list that I suggested of expertise that goes from the people inside the building to people outside the building—the public. These are two different situations. I think it would be worth giving some thought to that. I cannot do that myself, but it would be an interesting process to look at.
Yes, we won a competition and we got the job, but the competition itself was a very long process. In other words, there were lots of jurors for the competition and it covered various aspects, from the historical aspect to the significance of the building to the physical one, the design one, the stylistic aspect, if you wish, and so on. There is always a certain collective approach to the view of the character of this building, so I think the continuity of this kind of judgment that is collected through these various experiences will be important.
Mr Guida : I just want to build on the point that Aldo is making there by using two examples. What Aldo is talking about is continuity. Many people are familiar with the early buildings and subsequent buildings at the University of Western Australia, which were carried out by an architect and his office. It became appointed the university architect after doing the first two buildings, I believe. It was an evolving campus generating new responses to requirements as it evolved but in a consistent approach to design. It gave the core of the university a very cohesive and really quite wonderful environment as a whole, perhaps one of the best in Australia.
I had the great pleasure of working for a number of years at Princeton University with Jon Hlafter. Jon was the campus architect, and he was the campus architect for 40 years. He went to Princeton, studied architecture and was appointed at some early stage in his career as the campus architect. He sat over a department much like DPS but just slightly remote from it. He dealt directly with the president, the provost, the heads of colleges and departments. He organised work so that progressively work was reviewed and agreed along the way. He drew on the expertise of the head of the school of architecture, the head of landscape architecture and the head of planning, but the ultimate authority was this broad spectrum of the board of trustees. So he worked in a way as the chief architect over that wonderful campus, which you probably all know, to maintain a sense of consistency right through its evolution over 40 years, working with many different architects but maintaining a consistency in that particular case, where the landscape is such a cohesive component of that unity. The resolution and agreement were always taken to the trustees, which are not dissimilar to a joint standing committee.
Ms Berg : I think what both Aldo and Hal have said, when we take it back to the question of moral rights—and it is directly related—is that, as we all know, the Copyright Act was amended in 2000 with what is called the moral rights amendment. That amendment basically gives creators three rights. It gives the creator—and this includes architects as well as painters, sculptors, musicians and others—the right of attribution. It gives the creator the right to not have his work misattributed. And essentially it gives the right of the nonviolation of the integrity of what that thing is. It is a difficult area to talk about, and the legislation is still being tested. We all know instances like the National Gallery, in terms of architecture, where the whole question of moral rights was hotly debated.
If we just ask, 'What is important about what these two professionals have just said about Parliament House and moral rights?' I guess one could say in a very simple way that there has never been a plaque in the building which has acknowledged who the architects of the building were—that is, Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects and Aldo Giurgola. In 23 years, one would expect that perhaps a plaque could have been placed there, because the guides tell us that they regularly get asked by visitors: 'Who designed this? Who made this?' I believe Aldo and Hal's view is that one's life is not complete because of what goes on the wall; one's life is complete because one does one's best work and hopefully the work survives and speaks for itself. But that first question of attribution is one of those issues.
On the second one about not having your work misattributed or your professional standing lessened by the appearance that you have done bad work—and this goes to part of that third question as well—you will know about the letters Aldo has written both to DPS and recently to the Presiding Officers of the parliament about the fitting out of the endocroft space behind the staff cafeteria, where the billiard room was, with offices, where he opposed that very strongly and felt so strongly that he wrote to the Presiding Officers. In that letter he said, 'I would be very embarrassed for any professional colleague to see the whole idea of what has been done here—for them to think that I could have been responsible for this degree of planning and execution and the placement of people in this zone of the building where the curved walls of the building are meant to hold the ceremonial, large-scale, monumental public places and the executive and there was to be no leakage of offices into that space, let alone the quality of the accommodation.' He is saying, 'I would be deeply, deeply embarrassed.' This is also about moral rights. The third thing they both just referred to, which we have skirted around and we have mentioned, is the thorny difficulty of who continues to do all of the renovations and designs for change in the building, when there is suddenly a day care centre stuck into the courtyards because it has to be put somewhere because the building needed a day care centre, and that was hotly fought during all of the years of design. In each one of those things is the question of what so-called 'panel architect' is called in to do that work. I think, if we were to speak openly and truthfully, Hal's example is saying: is it really the case that over the last 25 years, with all of us alive and well and practising nationally and internationally and living in town—after all, Aldo did not leave; Hal did not leave; they have become citizens; they are here—that we could not have had a better circumstance of being able to keep that continuous vision of the why and what was appropriate and have a closer connection, a closer advisory capacity, about who the appropriate architect would be for these multiple projects that are happening within the building with multiple hands? That is as opposed to the system we have, which is, I think, to a great degree determined by saying: 'Well, one firm can't have all the work. We've got to spread the work around. After all, there are lots of good people, and so we spread it around.' But it is that central vision and how to entrench that that is so critical.
CHAIR: Senator Faulkner, I will have to ask you to ask your final question so I can move on to Senator Parry.
Senator FAULKNER: I will not even ask a question. I will just make a comment, because I appreciate that others have questions to ask. Taking account of these sorts of concerns, as you say, is of critical importance, and I certainly note that, from a parliamentary perspective—let us put aside what officials might do, whether they are in the Joint House Department or the Department of Parliamentary Services—I suspect really this committee's engagement is the first time it has happened at a parliamentary level in a serious way right through that period of time that you reflect on, so hopefully that will be positive. Chair, I will not ask another question but I would like, at the end of the hearing, to have an opportunity to perhaps ask some further questions of our witnesses, followed through in writing, because I appreciate that we have a constrained time frame today.
CHAIR: I think it would be fair to say that we always run out of time, but, if we could put some questions on notice to allow you to continue to help us, that would be greatly appreciated.
Senator PARRY: I am afraid I might disappoint you—I am going to move off the design of the building. But it has inspired me to think that maybe we need to do a follow-up inquiry just on the future of Parliament House, especially after the completion of the documentation, if that goes ahead. Mr Guida, when you were answering questions from Senator Polley, you indicated that some items of Parliament House 'went into the trash', to use your words. Can you describe which items?
Mr Guida : Of the two that I recall most directly, because it occurred within the past year, one was a door pull, not dissimilar to the one on the door just here, that we designed specifically for parliament. It is the only place it has ever been used, and it was executed in bronze and stainless steel in various parts of the building. As you recognise, bronze and brass are used above ground and stainless steel in the service areas and the basement. It was a stainless steel door pull. The other was a light fixture from the staff dining room. That was in a couple of pieces. People took photographs and sent them by email, saying, 'Why do you think this is in the trash?'
Senator PARRY: So to your knowledge those items were disposed of through the waste disposal?
Mr Guida : Yes.
Senator PARRY: You also indicated—just to confirm that again—that you received email traffic about this. Is the email traffic you received in relation to those matters something you would feel comfortable providing to the committee?
Mr Guida : I do not see why not. I might expunge a name or something. I am not sure I still have the one about the light, but I am sure I have the one about the door pull. May I just add to that that I did say, and I think it is worth saying here, that in specific terms we talked about the door pull with the current DPS staff—I am referring back to the period where we had some differences of opinion—and they responded very positively about the alarm that was raised. They have given assurances that these things are now being watched over. I just want to put that in balance.
Senator PARRY: When did this occur?
Mr Guida : It is within six months.
Senator PARRY: You indicated in your earlier evidence that you made contact with DPS. You have just indicated that you had a positive response as to future occurrences. Did you contact DPS via email?
Mr Guida : Probably; I am not sure. It might have been a telephone call.
Senator PARRY: You expressed concern about the disposal of what we can call heritage or iconic items.
Mr Guida : Yes.
Senator PARRY: Apart from what it we have discussed have you had any contact with DPS over the last, say, five years?
Mr Guida : Yes. We have been engaged to do projects with DPS, so we are doing work currently with DPS.
Senator PARRY: Has that been within the last six months, 12 months—
Mr Guida : Yes. In fact, right now we are doing work with DPS.
Senator PARRY: What is that work?
Mr Guida : We are doing the security upgrade blast wall project in the public car park; we are doing an overall review of code compliance in view of the fact that building codes evolve over time and change; and we are doing work in the kitchens.
Senator PARRY: I know the blast wall has been ongoing for a couple of years, so you would have been engaged in more than two years ago.
Mr Guida : No, we have probably been working on the blast wall project for six months—something like that.
Senator PARRY: What about the code compliance?
Mr Guida : The same period.
Senator PARRY: And the kitchen?
Mr Guida : Maybe just a little bit shorter—maybe five months. Those could be stretched out to eight and six, but it is in that kind of range of time.
Senator PARRY: Mr Giurgola, in the last line of page 6 and the top of page 7 of your submission you say:
… we have been extremely distressed at various times in finding that such elements as "life-time" furniture designed and custom-made for the building, specially-designed/hand-fabricated planters, custom light fittings, artist-designed wall textiles—
were decommissioned and sold off.
You were not consulted at all prior to the sale of any of these items?
Mr Giurgola : No, I was not—that is the point. For instance, on the underground occupancy I was not even consulted. The decision was made, even about the selection of the architect and the selection of the design; I did not have anything to do with that. I only realised at the end of it when somebody told me what had happened there—
Senator PARRY: That is what I am leading to. How were you informed?
Mr Giurgola : and I had a strong reaction with the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Senator PARRY: So were you informed by someone from inside the Department of Parliamentary Services?
Mr Giurgola : I wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House, in fact, on this subject.
Senator PARRY: That was after you were notified of the disposal of these items?
Ms Berg : Romaldo, I believe in this case that you did actually see developed documentation as part of your moral rights notification, but it was after so much of the work had been done that it was pointless.
Mr Giurgola : Oh, yes. I saw a sketch later on, yes.
Senator PARRY: Are you aware of what happened to those items, and could you put a value on some of those items?
Mr Giurgola : Sure. I found it was a tragic solution, really, because it is a place that does not have enough penetration of daylight and it is a very crowded office, on a different level of the space which implies connection between different levels and movements throughout and so forth. So I think that was something that was contradictory to the spirit of the design of the workplace. And I was too late. Then the thing obviously went mechanically through the process, with the economics that involved, and there was nothing to do about it.
Ms Berg : Romaldo, I think the senator is also asking you whether you have a kind of catalogue of specifics about lifetime furniture being gotten rid of, and I do not think you have that catalogue in front of you.
Mr Giurgola : Yes, that is right.
Senator PARRY: Is it something you could provide to the committee at a later date?
Mr Giurgola : Yes. I do not have any problem with that. But it will take some time to collect it all.
Senator PARRY: We have got plenty of time, so that is quite okay.
Mr Giurgola : All right.
CHAIR: This is going to be a long inquiry.
Senator PARRY: The nature of the call made to you, or the communication to you, about the selling-off of these items—was it made to you in a distressed manner, in an informing manner, in a leaking manner? I am interested in the nature of the call and why you were contacted.
Ms Berg : Sorry, he is having trouble hearing you. Romaldo, the senator is referring to your very general paragraph at the bottom of page 6, where you said:
… we have been extremely distressed at various times in finding that such elements as 'life-time' furniture designed and custom-made for the building—
was being sold. Senator Parry is asking: were the ways in which you found out about that direct or were they mostly indirect, in terms of hearing from other people, like the office, that certain things had happened?
Mr Giurgola : Sometimes it was direct, sometimes it was hearsay, sometimes I went out and found out what had really happened. It started very early. At the beginning of the construction of the building, there was a change to the kitchen, in that the kitchen was to occupy the ground floor and below; and, without knowing anything, one day I found that it was occupied with office space. Nobody asked me about that issue. That was a long time ago. But occasions like that were repeated.
I had a wonderful episode, for instance, with the children's creche, where I was called by the architect who was assigned to the project, and I worked with him intensively on the project, and it became very much a possible thing in terms of the place in which it was put. So it was created. That was a good experience for me because we had a long discussion about the real necessity of the creche in that particular place. In fact, I suggested the area outside that and inside and so forth, and we came to a kind of intelligent approach, I think, to that problem—and very significant too. But that was the situation. Sometimes, of the people who are employed, some are aware of this problem, but to others it is nothing.
Ms Berg : Your point is that your satisfactory relationship in that case was an extension in dignity and care by the architect who had been given the job. This was not a formal process. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Giurgola : That is right, yes.
Senator PARRY: Thank you. Thanks very much, Ms Berg, for assisting with that. I will leave it there. If there is time at the end, I might come back with some other questions.
Senator STEPHENS: I was going to ask you about the childcare centre, so thank you for pre-empting that question. I wonder if I could take up this issue: you have talked about acknowledging that the situation changes, the use of the building changes and we have to be adaptable. I would like to go to the issue of disability access if I could. I wonder if that is one of the codes that you are actually working on at the moment.
Mr Guida : It is. It is part of the work that we are doing. I think I should say, in response to opening that point, that the basic design—the conceptual design—of the building was to allow everyone into the building. I think this is probably the only parliament in the world that does not have a flight of stairs in front of it, for instance. So the design approach was one based on equity of access from the very beginning of our design studies. Codes have evolved since that time, and new hardware—let us just call it that—whether it is signage, dots on the floor or handrails and various things, is required for various situations that were not anticipated at that time. So we are looking at that now and we are looking at it as part of that code compliance study.
Senator STEPHENS: Disability access for people entering the public spaces of Parliament House is one issue. I am very mindful of the fact that a severely disabled parliamentarian has recently been elected to the Victorian parliament. We do not actually have any parliamentarians at the moment with significant mobility issues, but a real challenge for us on the joint house committee has been the heavy internal doors and the difficulty that there is. We now have mobility scooters for some senators and members. So the issue of how you can accommodate that without losing the integrity of the building is something that I am very interested in. It is probably not something that we can pursue for too long today, but it would be something that it would be helpful for us to have some more information about as your project evolves, if we may.
Mr Guida : Yes.
Senator STEPHENS: I have just one other issue, and that is the issue of underground spaces. You talked earlier about office space below ground level being used and more people being placed into those underground spaces. We were shown a photograph of a large void that exists under Parliament House. Was that ever earmarked for any kind of development?
Mr Guida : No. The space that I think you are referring to is often called in the building the 'cathedral'. If you look in the plan of the building, the area opposite the same space—on the west side instead of on the east side—is occupied by the emergency generators. It was not intended to be occupied space. It could have been, or can be, transferred into various kinds of storage or maybe short-term occupancy—you could probably have a theatre there if you wanted, if you see what I mean—but it was certainly not envisaged as being developed for occupied space. That is true of all of those spaces. There are four similar spaces—that is the largest one—and in every case the concern that Aldo expressed is that one of those spaces was being turned into a place for people, which was never the intention.
Senator STEPHENS: Thank you.
CHAIR: Before I give Senator Faulkner the call, I want to follow up on some earlier questions in relation to the contracts you have and the work you are doing with DPS at the moment. My understanding is that there is a program of refurbishing the staff offices for members and senators. Have you been involved in the design and refit-out of that office accommodation?
Mr Guida : No.
CHAIR: So there has been no consultation at all?
Mr Guida : No.
CHAIR: It is going to significantly change the office accommodation for staff. I have also heard that there is an expectation that there will be work to upgrade the bathrooms. Has there been any consultation with you in relation to the design or any work they may be intending to do on the bathrooms?
Mr Guida : No.
Senator FAULKNER: I am interested in the original documentation, so drawings and other related architectural documents—the technical term of which I cannot use because I do not know it; you might share that with me. Are you, as the professionals obviously so intimately involved in their creation, satisfied with how they are being kept and archived? Can you tell us how that is occurring, please.
Mr Guida : We know that DPS has a records store of drawings and specifications. We know they have recorded in more contemporary means much of the information over the years. They have produced computer aided drawings that we did not do in those days. We did it all by ink on film. They have produced drawings that now make most of the information accessible. I cannot speak for how they maintain the drawings that were handed over to them by the Parliament House Construction Authority. I know they have some of them. We also know that the Archives have some of them.
Ms Berg : Last year, as you are aware, on Aldo's 90th birthday we designed an exhibition that was held at Parliament House. We had planned to go back to the National Archives and pull some of the major original perspective sketches and some of the earliest of the small yellow trace fundamental design drawings. The catalogue at the National Archives shows that material as being properly recorded and in their holdings. There were in the records, I believe, 35 boxes, rolls of drawings and so forth. This was handed over I believe in around 1990 by our firm in an organised handover process by the Parliament House Construction Authority. To our huge dismay, when the Archives organised an afternoon to show us the range of holdings that they had we walked into the room and there were a few not very remarkable drawings—sorry, Aldo—on the table. We said, 'That is all very nice, but where is the real stuff?' Unfortunately, it has been lost.
National Archives are currently looking at what happened to that material. It progressed to get into the computer catalogue but was noted that it was being held off site. Your committee will know that, at the time that records management was happening in the handover of all the material from the construction authority from the joint venture from the construction manager, most of the material eventually ended up in the old admin warehouses. I believe under one Prime Minister's administration that admin group was terminated and it was handed over again. We asked many times to go through all of that archive material and pull out what we thought was critical for DPS or Archives to hold. My understanding is that most of the material that was design related did not ever progress out of those warehouses, and so there are significant gaps in the whereabouts and the preservation of all those original design drawings and others.
Senator FAULKNER: I actually did not know that. One of the difficulties on a committee like this is that, when you ask a question that is basically just for information and you receive an answer like that, someone will think, 'That's a dorothy dix question that he's managed to ask them.' It is a bit like the questions I asked about billiard tables, which really came about as a result of wondering where the hell these things had gone—they were there one day and gone the next. But that is another story and a very interesting one at that.
I am very concerned to hear what you have just informed the committee, and I am sure other committee members are also. In the short amount of time available to us—and also, I might say, as someone who has a very genuine interest in archives and is a longstanding member of the National Archives of Australia Advisory Council—what was the place where these drawings and documents were last recorded as being located? Do you know?
Ms Berg : It is unclear in the records. I believe there need to be more resources put into the search for what happened to this material than the National Archives are capable of in their own staffing, which is limited.
Senator FAULKNER: But you think they were in the possession of the National Archives.
Ms Berg : I do not believe so.
Senator FAULKNER: We do not even know that at this stage?
Ms Berg : I believe that they may have mistakenly gone from the Parliament House Construction Authority into the department of admin services warehouses that were holding huge material, and I believe they may have been shredded. This is my personal opinion from the anecdotal evidence we have received.
Senator FAULKNER: Of course, the Department of Administrative Services no longer exists and was amalgamated with the department of finance early in the life of the previous government. That is a substantial period of time ago too. So your understanding of where this is up to is that the Archives has put some resources—perhaps not adequate resources but some resources—into trying to nail this down but certainly there has been no good news about it.
Ms Berg : I believe they were as shocked as all of us. They were astonished. At a senior level, they are trying to trace it back. We made calls frantically at the time of the exhibition to the department of finance trying to find senior people who could remember et cetera. Just two quick things about that: I believe that there are really important documents that we pulled out of deep storage which were the formal minutes of the joint standing committee meetings on Parliament House. They are treasure troves of information because they also contain the papers written by the Parliament House Construction Authority, by us and so on during the eight years of the design approvals process for the department. I pulled those out at the time that I was working on the CRD. We tried to keep them from going back into deep storage. The people within the House of Reps who understood the value of all of those things have mostly retired now.
I think that what part of what needs to happen for the sake of DPS and Parliament House is that we need to make sure there is no chance that any of those documents can no longer be found or eventually get deaccessioned or just go so far into storage that they are not available. We also have a further archive of material from our firm which we have not handed over yet. It includes the detailed files of all of the art program commissions and some of the original letters from Aldo back and forth about the building. We are holding that material out on my farm, actually, at Wonboyn.
Mr Guida : You mentioned some slides.
Ms Berg : There are over 10,000 slides that are critical. There is a big archived amount of stuff that still should be dealt with before we fall off the perch.
Senator FAULKNER: It is probably very useful information that you have provided to us. I am pleased that we have had an opportunity today to hear about those concerns and about the substantial archive that still exists. I am sure you and the other witnesses will find that this committee is very interested in progressing the matter and in ensuring that appropriate resources are put into doing what we can to try to find these documents and drawings if they are able to be found.
Senator PARRY: You might like to provide this on notice, Ms Berg: you indicated that you personally were involved in the handover of the documents. Is that correct? Were you personally involved?
Ms Berg : The missing drafts?
Senator PARRY: Yes, the missing drawings and documents that were handed over.
Ms Berg : Our firm was contracted in the 89-90-91 period, still with the completion years of the Parliament House Construction Authority, to prepare materials for handover. We have within the firm our handover documents, faxes sent at the time that refer to pick-ups and so forth.
Senator PARRY: I am particularly interested, and I am sure we would be as a committee, in getting some detail as to who was involved, the transfer location and where the documents were physically taken from and to—any relevant documentation surrounding that. Would you provide that on notice? I do not expect we will get cartons of documents from you, but it sounds like there might be a number of documents involved in the proof of transfer of those documents from your custody. Were they handed to the Parliament House Construction Authority?
Ms Berg : It was the end of the Parliament House Construction Authority period. It was already working with the Department of Administrative Services at that time in the transfer process.
Senator PARRY: We would appreciate receiving anything to do with the continuity of those plans, drawings and documents.
CHAIR: Could I follow-up the question I asked in relation to the ongoing planning work to refurbish staff areas. My understanding from the evidence you have given—please correct me, because we want the public record to reflect your views, not mine—is that it is a typical example of where the integrity of the building needs to be protected. Would you agree that it would have been preferable that there was consultation with you in relation to any refurbishment of that area? Was that important in terms of continuing to ensure the integrity of the building? I have seen only one of the examples. There are two options available, but I have not seen the second.
Mr Guida : It is hard to know specifically your reference. We are aware that some work is being done in the Senate area for a new meeting room and some adjustments to staff offices by another firm. I believe that Aldo has met with them about that little office at the end of the corridor.
Mr Giurgola : Which area are you talking about?
Mr Guida : On the Senate side; on the first floor.
Mr Giurgola : Yes.
Mr Guida : In the case of that work, Aldo was consulted by that firm or perhaps through DPS. I am not sure how that happened; our firm was not involved in that.
CHAIR: In terms of the refurbishment of the office area for staff of members and senators, has there been any consultation?
Mr Guida : In a general way? No.
CHAIR: Thank you. I ask members that if they have further questions—I think there are a lot of other questions—they put them on notice. I thank each of you for appearing before us and, again, for your submissions. We really value the opportunity to be able to have your evidence before us.
Committee adjourned at 12:04