Asia Minute: Rolling Down Australia’s Political Hill

Dec 15, 2016

Credit Jason Tong / Flickr

If you’ve been to the national capitol building in Washington DC, you may have admired the historic dome, or the view down Pennsylvania Avenue.  In Australia, there’s a different tradition associated with the capitol building—and it’s about to change. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

Australia’s “Parliament House” has a unique look--patterned on a pair of boomerangs.  When it opened in 1988 the building showed a broad vision that put the parliamentary chamber and other government offices under a sweeping lawn.

The idea of architect Aldo Giurgola was to design a parliament where the people could literally walk over their representatives.  Giurgola was an Italian-born modernist who spent most of his career in the United States.  He liked his design of Parliament House so much that he moved to Australia when it was under construction in the 1980’s….staying for the rest of his life...which ended earlier this year.

Those sweeping lawns of his have sparked a tradition---rolling down the grassy hill.  But because of security concerns, parliament is now talking about building a fence—restricting access to those lawns.  That caught the attention of another architect—Lester Yao.

This week, Yao got the idea to organize a mass “roll-a-thon” for this Saturday morning….with hundreds of people rolling down the hill.  As he put it on social media, “this simple fun action embodies a very simple yet powerful symbol of democracy---that the citizens can walk up and over their elected government.”  So far, a couple of thousand people have signed up on the event’s Facebook page—cleverly titled “Rolling Down the Hill.”