I grew up in Western Australia. One of my earliest memories of the Perth city centre is of sitting on the lawn in the gardens next to Council House with my Mum, eating a white bread cheese sandwich – typical child of the 1970s on a shopping trip to the city with mum. The lawn in the gardens was lush and green, and towering over us was Council House. I feel a real affinity for that building and the gardens next door, and I like to see them whenever I’m in Perth. Back then, Council House was a relatively new building.
It is now over 50 years old. It was designed by Melbourne architects, Jeffrey Howlett and Don Bailey, and was officially opened in 1963 by Queen Elizabeth II. Architecturally, it’s one of my favourite buildings and it is recognized as one of the finest examples of 1960s ‘minimalist modern’ office buildings in Australia.
Not everyone shares my admiration for it however, and in the 1990s, the building came close to demolition because it did not fit with the State Government of the day’s vision for Perth. That Government wanted to create a ‘Heritage Precinct’ around that area – but their definition of heritage included just a particular historical era and style of architecture (c.1880s). In 1997, the State Government Heritage Minister refused to place the building on the WA Register of Heritage Places, despite recommendations from the Heritage Council and the National Trust. It was finally heritage listed in 2006, following a campaign by the WA Royal Australian Institute of Architects and members of public. In 2010, over 20,000 LED globes were installed on the exterior of the building as part of a plan to make illuminate various sites in the city to make it more attractive at night. The energy-efficient lighting in red, green and blue, is computer-controlled to change design, and cost the City of Perth $1.08 million to install.
It is certainly now one of the prettiest of night-time attractions for visitors to Perth (and locals).