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Canberra’s Magna Carta Place

By Paul Costigan - 25 March 2015 11

magna carta place

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the 13th Century English King’s agreement to the terms as set out in the Magna Carta. The original charter was more about getting a better deal for the church and the nobles rather than most of the population. Over time with additions and alterations, this document became important in establishing equity and a legal framework for our justice systems and had a significant influence on the Australian Constitution.

magna carta place 2

Canberra has a special monument to this event. A specially commissioned structure is located on an open grassed area, Magna Carta Place, situated to the west of Old Parliament House and the western rose garden. It is a site that is driven past by many but is rarely visited. I suspect it may be used for photo shoots for local weddings.

magna carta place canberra

The design for the monument is a curious beast, with a large metal dome being the dominating feature. The plaques on the back wall provide some useful introductions to this ‘Great Charter’ and its influence upon Australian law and our constitutional processes. The sloping wall is meant to represent several matters associated with the establishment of the first Magna Carta. There are two sets of graphics either side that set out the roles of some of the blokes involved in the charter as well as important Australian constitutional events. Most of this is pretty standard design work and does not do much to entice much interest.

Having visited the site several times to check out how it is used, I can honestly say that each time I was on my own. The site is tucked away and has received very little notice by tourists. The NCA has some information online about the site. Unfortunately it is written in a bureaucratic tone with the emphasis on the comings and goings of the committee and promoting their achievements.

As I said earlier, the design is a curious construction. It has no special visual appeal. Many of those who have driven past have probably conjured up all manner of imaginative ideas as to what this thing is supposed to be. Some form of spacecraft would be the most logical.

magna carta place canberra

Canberra’s Magna Carta Place and its monument remain under the radar. The charter was indeed important to this country, but this particular monument and the online information fail to stir enthusiasm for people to visit and to get to know more about the ‘Great Charter’. The design exercise was the result of much committee work and sadly that what it looks like – the result of too many committee meetings and not enough creativity.

If you are showing friends or family around Canberra, I could not recommend a visit to this monument, but I definitely do encourage you to make sure they see the copy of the charter up the hill inside Parliament House.

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
Canberra’s Magna Carta Place
1
Dame Canberra 9:29 pm
25 Mar 15
#

I have lived in Canberra for my whole life and didn’t know this monument existed. It doesn’t sound like I’m missing much!

Paul, I’d be interested to know what monuments in Canberra you would recommend to locals and visitors?

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2
rubaiyat 10:32 pm
25 Mar 15
#

Anzac Parade is actually a Monument to Committee Designed Monuments.

I have always been puzzled why whatever silly money for even sillier results this represents we have seen no-one ever object to the worst examples but, like with everything else, go ballistic at the first sign of anything that rises above insipid mediocrity in either purpose, concept or execution.

Rather than create monuments to significant (but not local) events we should work on something truly Canberran, a monument to mediocrity itself.

It could be The Monument to Appropriateness (blocking the view of Parliament House), or The National Car Park, or a Giant Sorry in a Speech Bubble (the NCA Monument).

Good committee decisions always copy some overseas idea like the World Trade Centre fountain, so we could dig an enormous hole in front of Parliament and pour endless money into it.

Just a few ideas to kick this along. They never took up my 300m high Big Paperclip in Lake Burley Griffin. Maybe I’ll get lucky this time. 😉

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3
GardeningGirl 11:26 pm
25 Mar 15
#

I actually like it very much. Problem is there’s no apparent place to park so it doesn’t encourage going over for a better look.

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4
switch 8:42 am
26 Mar 15
#

rubaiyat said :

Anzac Parade is actually a Monument to Committee Designed Monuments.

I have always been puzzled why whatever silly money for even sillier results this represents we have seen no-one ever object to the worst examples but, like with everything else, go ballistic at the first sign of anything that rises above insipid mediocrity in either purpose, concept or execution.

Rather than create monuments to significant (but not local) events we should work on something truly Canberran, a monument to mediocrity itself.

It could be The Monument to Appropriateness (blocking the view of Parliament House), or The National Car Park, or a Giant Sorry in a Speech Bubble (the NCA Monument).

Good committee decisions always copy some overseas idea like the World Trade Centre fountain, so we could dig an enormous hole in front of Parliament and pour endless money into it.

Just a few ideas to kick this along. They never took up my 300m high Big Paperclip in Lake Burley Griffin. Maybe I’ll get lucky this time. 😉

I was actually thinking of pointing you at the Big Paperclip story as I read (assuming I could find it in the Riotact Archives). You were responsible for that? Well done!

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5
Maya123 9:51 am
26 Mar 15
#

GardeningGirl said :

I actually like it very much. Problem is there’s no apparent place to park so it doesn’t encourage going over for a better look.

I like it too. I didn’t know it existed before this.

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6
watto23 10:16 am
26 Mar 15
#

rubaiyat said :

Just a few ideas to kick this along. They never took up my 300m high Big Paperclip in Lake Burley Griffin. Maybe I’ll get lucky this time. 😉

Its very un-Australian to not have a big fibreglass thing in Canberra.

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7
Paul Costigan 3:16 pm
26 Mar 15
#

Dame Canberra said :

I have lived in Canberra for my whole life and didn’t know this monument existed. It doesn’t sound like I’m missing much!

Paul, I’d be interested to know what monuments in Canberra you would recommend to locals and visitors?

Dear Dame Canberra, I aim to post more reviews of public art and urban spaces over the next months – so watch this space.

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8
Paul Costigan 3:26 pm
26 Mar 15
#

GardeningGirl said :

I actually like it very much. Problem is there’s no apparent place to park so it doesn’t encourage going over for a better look.

Greetings GardeningGirl. No problems. That’s what makes public art interesting. Some like it and others not so. It all makes for diversity. Thanks for your comment.

Parking is possible near the restaurant opposite where it is still free and limited to two hours. Around lunch time cars get moved and it is a good time to claim one to go for a walk around the area.

The design and artwork was mainly paid for by money from other sources; but having said that I see a lot of value in governments getting behind public art – even when many in the community do not agree.

As I said earlier, in this case I do not think the design work was that successful. One part of the problem being that it is so isolated. Enough said.

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9
Dame Canberra 3:37 pm
26 Mar 15
#

Paul Costigan said :

Dame Canberra said :

I have lived in Canberra for my whole life and didn’t know this monument existed. It doesn’t sound like I’m missing much!

Paul, I’d be interested to know what monuments in Canberra you would recommend to locals and visitors?

Dear Dame Canberra, I aim to post more reviews of public art and urban spaces over the next months – so watch this space.

Looking forward to it, Paul. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

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10
HiddenDragon 6:53 pm
26 Mar 15
#

Echoes of Stonehenge?

Far more stirring, though, is Australia’s very early copy of the Magna Carta – it’s nice to think that the then Government thought it worth paying the very substantial sum of £12,500 (sterling, no less) to secure that treasure.

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11
GardeningGirl 8:02 pm
26 Mar 15
#

Paul Costigan said :

GardeningGirl said :

I actually like it very much. Problem is there’s no apparent place to park so it doesn’t encourage going over for a better look.

Greetings GardeningGirl. No problems. That’s what makes public art interesting. Some like it and others not so. It all makes for diversity. . .

Exactly.

Looking forward to your future reviews and more discussion.

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