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National Gallery architect dies, aged 90

Colin Madigan, the architect who designed the National Gallery of Australia, has died aged 90, shortly after completing a book about the philosophy of his work on the building.

His son, Guy Madigan, said his father died peacefully in a nursing home on Saturday with family around him.

''He had just finished writing his book which is going to be published in the next few months which has a lot to do with the gallery, his architecture and design. It's to do with his concepts and philosophy of architecture and design that he put into the National Gallery,'' he said.

Mr Madigan said his father had been working on the as yet untitled book for 10 years. ''He was waiting to finish the book, that's what kept him going.''

The National Gallery was opened in 1982 after 14 years of planning, design and construction.

James Mollison, who was the acting director of the gallery from 1971 to 1977 and director from 1977 to 1990, worked closely with Colin Madigan during the design and construction of the building.


''His legacy at the gallery is a great building, much admired by the architectural profession as a classic example of its time,'' Mr Mollison said.

''It's very interesting that the new addition to the gallery which is in rather temporary materials brings out the values of Col's building. The contrast is startling; that you go in the new back entrance and you in due course find yourself in Col Madigan's gallery and it's a very moving experience. Among art galleries of the world this is one of the grand architectural statements. The building was designed in the late 1960s and the building is now [approaching] 50 years old and it is no longer on most smart people's notion of what cool design is today, but I think we'll only have to wait another mere 50 years and the building will stand proudly in Canberra and art looks so good in it.''

Mr Mollison met with Colin Madigan in his Canberra office nearly every Friday for several years as they pored over his designs.

A spokesman for the National Gallery said, ''The National Gallery of Australia is saddened by the death of Col Madigan. He created an iconic building, a legacy for the nation. He also assisted in the early planning of the Stage 1 redevelopment.''

Guy Madigan said a memorial service would be held in Sydney but no date had yet been set.