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The man who defined Canberra architecture shuffles off this mortal coil

By johnboy - 21 September 2011 9

high court

The Australian is eulogising Colin Madigan, the architect who gave us the High Court and the National Gallery.

THE architect behind two of the country’s most distinctive buildings, the National Gallery of Australia and the High Court, was a visionary who linked design to cultural identity.

Colin Madigan, whose brutalist, concrete-dominated style remains a shorthand for Canberra architectural design, died, aged 90, on Saturday.

Australian Institute of Architects chief executive David Parken said Madigan’s cultural legacy could not be overstated.

“Colin was a thinker. To use concrete in a way that expresses such beauty is simply amazing, and I don’t think you’ll see the likes of it again,” he said.

“He saw architecture as an important part of Australian cultural identity. He helped to shape not only Canberra’s architectural identity, but that of Australia, too.”

UPDATE:

We’ve had this in the mail:

Your article ‘The man who defined Canberra architecture shuffles off this mortal coil’ suggests the High Court building was designed by Colin Madigan.

This is incorrect.

The High Court of Australia was designed by architect Chris Kringas. Kringas was director in charge and led the design team, which included Feiko Bouman and Rod Lawrence. The team completed the design in 1973 working from a terrace house in McMahon’s Point, Sydney.

Construction documentation was substantially complete at the time of Kringas’s death in March 1975, just one month before construction began.

Architect Hans Marelli supervised construction of the design.

The constructed building is relevantly identical to the winning competition design.

While there are similarities in material and style between Madigan’s National Gallery and Kringas’s High Court, there are significant differences in architectural form and space.

Please publish a correction.

Simon Kringas
Senior Lecturer in Architecture, University of Canberra

[Photo by Josh]

What’s Your opinion?


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9 Responses to
The man who defined Canberra architecture shuffles off this mortal coil
diced_mango 4:55 pm 22 Sep 11

Both buildings are postcards compared to the National Archives building on Flemington Road – that is the ugliest building I have ever seen.

As for the HCA, Courtroom #1 is quite nice.

poetix 3:37 pm 22 Sep 11

dtc said :

Although extremely ugly and (in my view) not sympathetic to their locations, they are more interesting than 95% of the crappy buildings in Civic. Cannot someone build something attractive! Nishi, if the unions dont ban it, could be worthwhile.

Why are the unions thinking of banning work on Nishi?

On the main issue, Madigan was an architect with a vision and an individual style, whose buildings were never ordinary and safe. I’ll never forget someone whinging on about how ‘ugly’ the Gallery was, then turning to the Stalinist-style DFAT building (as it was back then) and saying ‘now that’s what I call a building’.

dtc 2:42 pm 22 Sep 11

Although extremely ugly and (in my view) not sympathetic to their locations, they are more interesting than 95% of the crappy buildings in Civic. Cannot someone build something attractive! Nishi, if the unions dont ban it, could be worthwhile.

GardeningGirl 12:38 pm 22 Sep 11

Sad.
I always found the gallery as a building fascinating on the inside but a bit too brutalist on the outside, the extensions have improved it. I do like the High Court very much.

OpenYourMind 12:20 pm 22 Sep 11

I like brutalist architecture. It takes a while to ‘get’ and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
Canberra is really lucky to have some wonderful examples of Brutalism. Although like lots of unusual architect designed buildings, they don’t always work as well as the concept. eg. the Cameron and Callum offices.

There’s a British comedy called skins and the camera dwells on the brutalist architecture of the housing commission areas – in particular Thamesmede and Southmere lake.

2604 10:41 pm 21 Sep 11

Balthazar said :

The High Court and National Gallery are two of the ugliest buildings in Canberra and have been since the day they were built.

Brutalism isn’t for everybody, but I think that these buildings, Llewellyn Hall and the Cameron Offices are kinda interesting.

phototext 10:14 pm 21 Sep 11

“The High Court and National Gallery are two of the ugliest buildings in Canberra and have been since the day they were built.”

One persons ugly is anothers sublime.

Balthazar 9:25 pm 21 Sep 11

The High Court and National Gallery are two of the ugliest buildings in Canberra and have been since the day they were built.

Cheap 5:46 pm 21 Sep 11

That sucks. A few weeks ago I was researching the architect of the national gallery and was amazed to find out that he was still alive. Would’ve like to meet him.

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