About Parliament House of Western Australia

Parliament House

  • First Built 1904
  • Eastern Facade Extension 1964
  • South side wing extension 1978
  • North side wing extension 2002

House on the Hill

Parliament House or "The House on the Hill" was originally planned to be built within the centre of Perth city and to a much grander scale as advocated by the 1900 Parliamentary Committee. The foundation stone was laid on 31 July 1902 and the building was opened in 1904. The Chief Architect was John H. Grainger and it was built by the Public Works Department at a cost of £35,623/3s/1d.† The architectural style of the wing facing Harvest Terrace is Federation academic classical. The exterior is clad in Rottnest Island limestone, with the exception of the central Western facing second story which was completed in Donnybrook free stone, as Rottnest Island stone became depleted.

The Building
Parliament House extension commenced in 1958 and opened in 1964.† The 1964 architectural style is Stripped Classical with the exterior faced with Donnybrook free stone constructed at a total cost was £140,000. The additions covered three floors linked by a circulate structure housing the helicoidal, reinforced, post-stressed staircase, with the walls and stairs clad in imported Italian Travertine Marble. The Forrest foyer’s floor is a mosaic of wandoo, jarrah and blackbutt.†

The Chambers
Both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Chambers are housed in the original 1904 building. They incorporated walls constructed of jarrah from the South West and original stained glass windows by Barnett Brothers in Murray Street, Perth. The Legislative Assembly dome plasterwork ceiling was from Britain and the chamber colour is blue, breaking from Westminster tradition which dictates a green lower house of representative of the Commons.

The Legislative Council chamber† is red, representing nobility, the traditional colour for upper houses in the Westminster system. The chamber was renovated in 2011 with design and works by architects Oldfield Knott.

An interesting architectural feature of the chambers is the sash windows that drop into a cavity allowing for cross flow ventilation† before the building extensions.

Significant Rooms

The Members’ Dining room is part of the original 1904 building.† Originally much narrower in size the room was extended into the arched colonnades.† The room seats 120 guests and holds many Parliamentary and government functions.† There is also the Centenary Room, which can be open to extend the size of the dining room. This room seats 35 people; a recent addition to dining facilities is the Mace room which seats 14.

The Parliamentary Library was first located in the 1904 building with the room a variation to original plan.† The exterior is clad in Donnybrook stone rather than Rottnest Island limestone. It was originally conceived as a ballroom but was never used, becoming the library and billiard and meeting room.† In 1964 the library moved to the new eastern extension and the area was divided into three rooms to provide offices, committee and billiard rooms.†The library moved back to its original location in 2004.

The Aboriginal People’s Room and Gallery on the 2nd floor was established when the Parliamentary Library moved back to the western side of the building establishing a place within Parliament House to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal peoples and their communities to the state.† A feature of this room is the display of Aboriginal art work captured in paintings and slump glass.†

Symbols of Parliament

The Mace symbolises the authority of the Speaker of the house. The Western Australian Mace was designed by the State Works Department in 1887, and was manufactured in South Australia by Mr Salis Schlank’s Beaver Factory in Adelaide at a cost of £70. It is made of silver with gold gilt. It was first used in the Legislative Council in 1888, and was transferred with the Sergeant at Arms to the Legislative Assembly upon its establishment in 1890. It is the oldest Parliamentary Mace in use in Australia.

The Black Rod lies across the brass cradle on the table of the house and was specifically designed for Western Australia by the British Crown Jeweller in London and presented to the Legislative Council to mark the visit of Her Majesty the Queen in 1954. The Black Rod was a gift of Hon Harry Hearn, OBE a member of the Legislative Council (1948 - 1956).

Parliament House Gardens

The development of the 1964 eastern extension produced the built form and landscape setting that is now visible from the city and city approaches.

The grounds of Parliament House are regarded as a prestigious and symbolic venue for the conduct of important ceremonies and civic functions, as well as for public rallies and the presentation of petitions.

The initial development of the grounds reflects the emerging interest in the early decades of this century in the beautification of the city and the image of Perth as a garden city.

Development of Grounds
The employment of a permanent gardener on the Parliament House staff from the earliest period meant the grounds were not only maintained but continued to be developed, albeit slowly. Written records covering the development of the grounds during the inter-war period do not appear to exist, however the photographic record provides some evidence and shows the growth of the early tree plantings, fencing and hedge plantings. The development of the streetscapes on Harvest Terrace and Malcolm Street are more fully recorded in written and photographic records.

Continuous Development

Between 1911 and 1914 the Woods & Forests Department supplied another 1800 trees in addition to the 150 trees which had previously been supplied. The planting of this number of trees is surprising and while it suggests that significant effort was being expended on the development of the grounds, it may have been necessary to replace a considerable number which did not survive. The earliest aerial photograph available taken in January 1942, reveals a concentration of well-developed trees growing on the north and east sides of Parliament House, and it seems reasonable to assume these were some of the trees planted in the years just prior to World War One. After 1914, the Woods & Forests Department no longer listed in its annual reports the places receiving trees from the Hamel nursery. It is therefore possible more trees were received from the nursery and that tree planting continued after this date.

This image shows the Harvest Street facade c1934.

Aerial Photograph, 1942. Note the collection of buildings within the Pensioner Barracks ground, built to accommodate a variety of government departments and the clusters of plantings to the east and north of Parliament House, together with street tree plantings. The Observatory telescope can also be seen on the axis of Fraser Avenue.

Mitchell Freeway
Construction of the Mitchell Freeway delayed the completion of work on the grounds until the early 1970s. This final stage included the construction of the water features on two levels, a parking area in front of the entrance to Parliament House and a viewing area overlooking the city. The Premier turned on the fountains and unveiled a plaque commemorating the completion of the work in July 1971, on the occasion of the official opening of Parliament.

The design for the water gardens, incorporating pools, fountains and a water cascade with a pedestrian walkway behind it was a development of an earlier design prepared in 1963 as part of the completion of the east front to Parliament House. Concrete parterre gardens planted with colourful, textured low-growing plants complemented the water features on the upper level, and terraced gardens formed a backdrop to the fountains and pools at the lower level.

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