The Civic Offices were commissioned by the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) and designed in 1959 by Roy Simpson of Yuncken, Freeman Architects. The offices and square were intended to function as the centre of Canberra’s administrative and cultural life. They still do: the South building houses the ACT Legislative Assembly, while the North building accommodates the Canberra Museum and Gallery, and Craft ACT.
The Civic Offices were originally a balanced pair of L-shaped buildings in the Late Twentieth Century stripped classical style, with their symmetrical massing and repetitive columns clad in distinctive gold mosaic tiles. In 1975 the L-shaped buildings were enclosed and each now has a central courtyard. The buildings are clad in pre-cast white quartz panels separated by aluminium glazing. The ground floors have a set-back to form a colonnade. The three storey buildings face each other across the paved Civic Square, which contains two important works of mid-century Australian art: the bronze statue of Ethos, (Tom Bass, 1961) which symbolises the spirit of the community; and Thespis (Robert Cook,1965), now located in the foyer of the Canberra Theatre Centre.
Civic Offices and Civic Square was a key complex in the early phase of development in Canberra under the NCDC. The buildings are symbolically important to Canberra for their social and planning values, and it remains a largely intact mid-century public space.
Text courtesy of Martin Miles, www.canberrahouse.com.au
Image of ‘We Dance Together’ by Jodie Cunningham – Civic Square, DESIGN Canberra 2017