NSW Parliament House

Parliament House Sydney NSW

Parliament House in Sydney is a complex of buildings housing the Parliament of New South Wales. It is located on the east side of Macquarie Street in Sydney. The facade consists of a two storey Georgian building, the oldest public building in the Sydney, flanked by two Neo-gothic additions containing the parliamentary chambers. These buildings are linked to a 1970s 12-storey block at the rear, facing onto the Domain.

The main entrances are contained in a two-storey building with a colonnaded front verandah. On the ground floor, there are two entrance halls. Between these halls is the Greenway Room, which is used for small committee meetings and events. The upstairs rooms are used by Hansard. To the north of this building is the chamber of the Legislative Assembly, the lower house. The colour scheme of the chamber is green, representing the colours in the United Kingdom House of Commons. At one end of the room is the speaker’s chair, and in front of this is a table holding the mace. Government members sit in the two rows of seating to the speaker’s right, and opposition members to the left. There are galleries for the press behind the speaker, Hansard to the speaker’s left, guests of the speaker opposite the speaker and the public above the speaker’s gallery and to the speaker’s right.

At the opposite end of the entrance building is the Legislative Council chamber. Here, the colour scheme is red, representing the House of Lords. This chamber contains a vice-regal chair, for use by the Monarch in Australia or her representative, the governor, and the chair of the president of the council. Both chairs are made from red cedar, the vice-regal chair in 1856 and the president’s chair in 1886. The table in front of the chairs was also made in 1856 from red cedar. The wall behind the two chairs is covered by bookshelves holding the Hansard records. The chamber is also decorated with seven busts, four depicting early presidents of the council in ceremonial dress and three of other prominent former members in Roman togas. As in the lower house, government members sit on the president’s right and opposition members on the left. Behind the entrance building is the Jubilee Room, used for committee meetings and public functions. In this area, which is open to the public, there is also the Fountain Court, an exhibition venue containing a fountain by Robert Woodward. Beneath the Fountain Court is a 175-seat theatrette and above it a roof garden sometimes used for functions. Together with a small post office, these 1970s features form a “square doughnut”-shaped building linking the streetfront buildings with a 12 storey block at the rear. This block, with views over the Domain contains offices for members and other staff and meetings rooms, as well as dining facilities, a fitness area and car parking and service areas. The building has a power co-generation unit that serves Sydney Hospital and the State Library of New South Wales as well as Parliament House.

The oldest part of Parliament House was built first as the north wing of Governor Macquarie’s “Rum Hospital“. Macquarie Street was created and land in the Domain was assigned by Governor Macquarie in 1810. As there was no funding from the British government, a contract to build the hospital was arranged involving convict labour and a monopoly on rum imports. The building of three two storey colonnaded buildings was completed in 1816 and was praised as “elegant and Commodious” but also criticised for both its design and construction by Francis Greenway. Defects resulting from short cuts taken by the builders were still being discovered in the 1980s.

The north wing was the Chief Surgeon’s quarters, although at one point it was used as law courts. When the Legislative Council was formed in 1824, it did not have a permanent home and met in places such as the old Government House. In 1829, the Council’s membership increased from five to 15 members, and it began to meet in the downstairs northern room of the Surgeon’s quarters from 21 August. Only two rooms were left for the Chief Surgeon, with the remaining five rooms used as offices by the Clerk of the Executive and Legislative Councils and other government officials. From 1831 to 1836, the Clerk was also the curator of Australia’s first museum, a small natural history collection which became beginning of the Australian Museum collection.

The Legislative Council was increased to 36 members by the new colonial constitution in 1843. The room in the old building was no longer large enough, and so a new chamber was added to the north of the building. This chamber became the home of the new Legislative Assembly when a bicameral system was introduced in 1856. The Legislative Council was relocated to a prefabricated iron building that was assembled at the southern end of the original hospital building. The building had been manufactured in Scotland by engineering firm Robertson & Lister and originally shipped to Melbourne. It was purchased for £1,835. The cost of erecting and furnishing the building as well as the new offices was £4,475. The incomplete building was used first for the official opening of the new parliament on 22 May 1856.

The new chamber was not without its problems. The walls, originally lined with packing boards covered with hessian and plastered, and the curved iron roof cause problems with acoustics, lighting and ventilation. The roof was replaced with slate in 1959. Other changes followed as the façade was moved 3 m closer to the street in 1892–93. Deterioration in the southern wall became apparent during the 1920s, and wooden props were added to the outside of the southern wall and inside the chamber to hold up the ceiling. The southern wall was entirely rebuilt in the 1930s.

In the meantime, a dining room was constructed behind the hospital building by 1969 and the Parliamentary Library, which in 1850 had been moved to the original Legislative Council chamber, expanded and relocated back into the two remaining ground floor rooms, which were united to form the Greenway Room. The Jubilee Room was built as a reading room for the library in 1906.

Heritage Reconstruction Work

Jubilee Room - Parliament House Sydney

The Jubilee Room of Parliament House was built as a reading room for the library in 1906. The original cedar doors in the passageway leading into the Jubilee Room were not fireproof, and had to be replaced. New fire doors constructed of new materials and fire resistant for up to two hours arrived in April 2016. In order to retain the heritage significance of the doors, Lancaster Painters Australia were hired by Parliament House to hand paint a panelled polished cedar wood grain effect with mouldings onto the plain laminate textured surface of the doors.

Lancaster Painters Australia implemented work health and safety strategies including wet paint signs. Most of the work was completed “after hours” to accommodate the requirements of Parliament House. The work area was kept clean at all times.

Progressive Wood Graining of Fire Doors

After examining the old cedar doors, samples of the wood grain finish and the mouldings were supplied for approval. The new fire doors were thoroughly prepared prior to painting, including the filling of the grain for a smooth finish. The works demanded a five coat paint system that included the artistic wood graining of the doors. Approval was sought at every stage of the works.

Parliament House Fire Doors - Cedar Wood Graining

Black Divider Longest

Heritage Conservation

Heritage Conservation

Commercial Projects

Commercial Heritage Projects

Commercial Painting

Heritage Commercial Painting