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Romalda Giurgola, architect of Australian Parliament and Wright Brothers Memorial Visitor Center passes away

June 25, 2016

Modernist architect Romaldo “Aldo” Giurgola passed away May 16 at the age of 95. He was born and received his undergraduate degree in Italy, before immigrating to the U.S. where he received his Master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University. In 1958, while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, he and Philadelphia-based architect Ehrman Mitchell, Jr. formed Mitchell/Guirgola. They pursued commissions with the National Park Service, which had recently launched its “Mission 66” program, a collection of projects to prepare for the 50th anniversary of the NPS in 1966. Their first project, the Wright Brothers Memorial Visitor Center, gained much attention and praise for not only helping visitor centers become recognized as a building type unto themselves, but also for the architects’ attention and adaptations to the needs of the site. This would become characteristic of Giurgola’s work throughout his career and was also a common thread among what was dubbed the “Philadelphia school” by architectural critic Jan Rowan.

His most well-known work is the Parliament House in Australia, for which his winning design was chosen from among 300 other submissions. Designed in 1979, the building was not completed until 1988. Although late in his career, the success of the building again stemmed from Giugola’s concern with the interaction between site, architecture, and the public. He designed what he described as a “nested” building, with a pyramidal, grass-covered roof that allows people to actually walk over the structure. Giugola hoped this interaction with the site would inspire passersby to think about the democratic process taking place within.

New York Times obit: “Romaldo Giurgola, Architect of Australia’s Parliament House, Dies at 95” (May 16, 2016)