Getting to Know Parliament House in Sydney

Sydney is one of Australia’s most vibrant cities, boasting an eclectic mishmash of cultural opportunities and a huge selections of activities to get stuck into. It also features a large political arena, with the Parliament House sitting at the centre of it all.

Located in the heart of Sydney City, Parliament House is actually a complex of buildings that can be found on the east side of Macquarie Street. From the outside, it boasts a Georgian design and is actually the oldest public building in the entirety of Sydney. It is flanked by two Neo-gothic buildings that are home to the parliamentary chambers, which are connected to a 12-storey block at the back of Parliament House.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Sydney’s Parliament House is that it showcases a fairly simple design compared to Australia’s other parliamentary buildings. Elsewhere in the country, the buildings feature intricate detailing and eye-catching exteriors, whereas Parliament House in Sydney is not grand at all in its appearance and architectural style. Instead, it is pretty unexceptional.

The oldest part of the building dates back to 1810, when it was built as the north wing addition to Governor Macquarie’s “Rum Hospital”. There was no funding from the British government, which was the norm for buildings at this time, so Macquarie arranged to build the hospital using only convicts and a monopoly on rum imports – hence its name.

It was completed in 1816, boasting three two-storey colonnaded buildings and was met with a mixed reaction. On the one hand, it was dubbed “elegant and Commodious,” but it was also heavily criticised for its design and the haphazard construction led by Francis Greenway. In fact, there were so many shortcuts during the building stages, that defects and problem areas were still being found in the 1980s.

Until the 1850s, when the parliament became bicameral, there was only the Legislative Assembly which was located in the lower house.

Now, the Legislative Council meet in a building that was initially built as a church. It was built in Glasgow to travel to Victoria, but it was intercepted midway in Sydney and tacked on to the parliamentary building. After a series of refurbishments and preservation projects, Parliament House is now based largely on its mother in London. As well as a Speaker and a Black Rod, there is a green lower chamber and a red upper chamber which follows the British tradition.

Visit the Parliament House on our Sydney City Tour with Harbour Cruise.

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