Brutalist Architecture : Australia High Court

The High Court of Australia is a monumental, fortress-like building. Love it or hate it, this style of architecture cannot be ignored.

High Court of Australia

High Court of Australia

I had not heard the term “brutalist architecture” before and found this huge building intimidating but, with the high wall of glass windows and glimpses of art work inside, strangely appealing and made me want to take a look inside. I wondered could the public just wander around?

So hesitantly I pushed through the revolving doors.

Entering the foyer

Entering the foyer

Being Sunday no courts were in session but a very helpful Court Guide welcomed us in and told us of the points of interest, and yes we could take photos. The first thing to see was the 10 minute video explaining the history of the building and this is when I found out about “brutalist architecture”

“The High Court building is an outstanding example of late modern Brutalist architecture. It has light-filled, bold geometric shapes and spaces, raw massed concrete, dynamic internal movement, and strong links with neighbouring buildings and landscape. It is monumental and asymmetrical, but also functional.
A national design competition for the building announced in May 1972 was won by the architectural firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB).

                      It was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 26 May 1980″  (information from high court website)

Looking down on the foyer from the 3rd floor

Looking down on the foyer from the 3rd floor

Looking up at the bold, geometric shapes

Looking up at the bold, geometric shapes

I thought it was an imposing interior space, huge and majestic, yet inviting.

Comfortable leather lounges invite you to sit and enjoy the view

Comfortable leather lounges invite you to sit and enjoy the view

Ramps and lifts take you up to the next levels

Ramps and lifts take you up to the next levels

Did you notice the art work on the wall as you went up the ramp?

Did you notice the art work on the wall as you went up the ramp?

Information about the art work

Information about the art work

This is a painting by an Aboriginal woman. Reading the caption you can hear her talking and it is a very significant statement about the change from Aboriginal cultural laws to todays justice system.

All the art work through out the building, from the portraits of Chief Justices to State emblems are significant and symbolic.

“The High Court will be a powerful and dominating structure, and must be considered one of the most important buildings in Canberra from all points of view. It is equally important that the art works which contribute towards the visual realisation of what this building means to the people of Australia, should also be of the highest calibre.”
As intended, many of the artworks in the High Court’s collection represent aspects of the economic, social and cultural development of the nation. Some engage with the history, workings and aspirations of the Court.

Images showing regional economic activities

Images showing regional economic activities

Tapestry of the emblems of the States on the wall in the main court room

Tapestry of the emblems of the States on the wall in the main court room

The main court room were the final decisions of points of law are made

The main court room were the final decisions of points of law are made

The public are allowed to sit in and observe the court in action, but, of course, no photos could be taken then.

The Australian coat of arms is prominent on the front glass windows

The Australian coat of arms is prominent on the front glass windows

Sunday was a good day to look through the building but I now want to go back during the week when the courts are in session to see law being enacted. Also on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month a free concert is performed in the foyer and with the towering ceilings I imagine the acoustics will be spectacular.

This is the next concert on August 3rd.  

Canberra Recorder & Early Music Society (CREMS), founded in 1974 is a friendly, non-auditioned group of recorder players from Canberra and the surrounding region. Enjoying playing early and modern music in ensembles and recorder orchestra,

CREMS is led by Barbara Jerjen. In this concert you will hear music of the Renaissance as well as contemporary music arranged for recorder orchestra and played on seven different-sized recorders from the tiny sopranino to the very large contra-bass.

Now that sounds interesting…

 

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Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, Australian High Court, Canberra, photos | Tags: , , , , | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Brutalist Architecture : Australia High Court

  1. Interesting as I too am learning along with you the styles of architecture.. Brutalist! I can see the reasoning.. And to say this building is a high court it immediately gives you the feeling of being behind bars.. as many of the lines in the windows and woodwork define them… :-) A foreboding building…

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    • Thanks for the comment Sue. I rather like this style with all it’s angles, but yes it is very appropriate, it’s style fits it’s purpose.

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  2. Nicola Whitelaw

    Lovely photos of one of my favourite buildings in Canberra

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  3. I was not familiar with the term or type of architecture, either. It is certainly impressive inside. You’ll have to let us know if it has great acoustics.

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  4. I’ve looked at this building many times and never realised it was classified as Brutalist Architecture. I love the building – it really suits what goes on in there ;)

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  5. Hi! I just found your blog and so glad I did. What an interesting life you have had. I am writing to you from the Midlands of England as an American who has moved here because I met a British man and married him. We actually got married in Australia in Port Douglas. We had to go somewhere to get our official marriage certificate, but I think it was Brisbane, we thought it was going to be Canberra I think. Also I am happy to read a blog from someone else over 50:) My husbands son is immigrating to Western Australia from England and we visited there last year.

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  6. Brutalist Architecture is new to me Pauline ! Do like the sense of gravitas with this place.. it’s not going anywhere in a hurry . Just set down square and immoveable . Love the collections of art work .
    Strange how since I’ve taken up photography I find these modern structures appeal to me more than they ever did before .

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    • A very macho building Poppy and I loved all the angles inside. One of the guides said they get a number of photography groups come in for photo ops. I will be going back to see it in operation.

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  7. Hello. My daughter sent me your blog for a couple of reasons I guess. She lives in Canberra now and she knows I am an old Gypsy at heart. I’ve lost a hub and been through the ills and now, just loving all life offers, have bought myself a converted bus and am about to take off on a longer journey. I have a blog but don’t seem to get to it enough…perhaps that is part of the journey. Hope to catch up one day.
    Blessings

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    • G’day Marilyn, pleased to have you call in to my world. You have a fantastic adventure ahead of you exploring our beautiful country in your home on wheels. We loved every minute of our trek around the big lap in 2010. :) Maybe our paths will cross.

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  8. Brutalist place…

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  9. Like Dawn, I love different styles of architecture, though some of the ‘Brutalist’ style can be ugly. I do like all that glass and the light. Thanks for showing us this building PP :)

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    • It was a very interesting building Jude and I’m looking forward to visiting again when the courts are in operation. They will be debating our illegal immigrants next week, that should be interesting.

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  10. Wow, what an imposing building. “Brutalist architecture” – very apt.

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  11. Ugly on the outside beautiful inside and your fotos are stunning works of art!

    Like

  12. This is just the kind of post I like. I love architecture, all kinds and I love learning about it. I love art and history. Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Like

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