One of the nation's most important civic institutions where major milestones of Australian constitutional law had been heard and decided will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Wednesday.
Opened on May 26 in 1980 by the Queen, the $46.5 million High Court of Australia made Canberra its home and is only one of nine across the country listed on the World Register of Significant 20th Century Architecture.
On Wednesday, it will mark the anniversary with the launch of an oral history to accompany the celebrations after the pandemic postponed the momentous occasion last year.
Present justices of the court, local and interstate judges, participants in the oral history and their families, and the heads of many of the neighbouring national institutions will attend the event.
The building, based on brutalism, one of architecture's most divisive styles, was the culmination of a competition commissioned by the Whitlam Government in 1972.
The competition brief called for a monumental building that acknowledged but maintained independence from the national parliament, now Old Parliament House.
Six entries were shortlisted after 158 entries were received.
The competition was won by lead architect Christopher Kringas at architectural firm Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs, which also designed the adjacent Australian National Gallery.
Mr Kringas worked closely with Feiko Bouman and Rod Lawrence before he died in 1975 just before construction.
Hans Marelli and Colin Madigan then took over the construction phase of the building.
Prior to 1980, it was in Melbourne then Sydney and spent a lot of time circuiting around the country.
Among those attending the event on Wednesday will be Mr Kringas' children and nephew, Simon Kringas, who is also an architect.
Simon published a PhD thesis in 2017 that corrected the history, accounts and discourse about the authorship of the High Court's design.
Simon said as a child, he could "remember being captivated by white models of the High Court competition designs on display".
"As an architect, the High Court's radical organisation of form and profound spatiality, almost gravity-less, became a benchmark for architecture," he said.
The High Court's radical organisation of form and profound spatiality, almost gravity-less, became a benchmark for architecture.Simon Kringas
Simon said there were three key concepts in his uncle's earliest design sketches.
"First, he wanted the building to respond to the site and take in views to Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding landscape," he said.
"Second, he wanted a seamless continuity from the vast elevated public plaza envisaged by 'National Place' (which was later abandoned) into, and throughout, the building.
"Last, he wanted the functional components and their organisation - the courtrooms, the justice wing and the administrative areas - to freely provide the architecture, so that the building's expression was intrinsic, rather than dictated by a preconceived style or symbolism."
Simon said the design achieved the concepts "quite uniquely".
"By suspending the component masses of the building above the public plaza in a sort of free play, separated by large voids, and linked by a continuous ramp system," he said.
"It is a remarkably transparent and innovative three dimensional composition.
"Regardless of its function, it can be seen as a highly original work of civic architecture.
"Now 40 years later, and virtually unchanged, it marks a significant period of architectural innovation."
The oral history, which will be available as a podcast on the court's website after the launch, discusses the challenges of completing the project after the death of Chris Kringas and the protests around the expense of the building.
It also examines the use of such large amounts of concrete and glass together, the symbolism woven into the building, the budget blowout and the importance of the court having a permanent place in Canberra.
The High Court's senior executive deputy registrar Ben Wickham said major cases in the building - which shares its significant architecture status with the Sydney Opera House, New Parliament House and Harry Seidler's Australia Square - included the Mabo decision, the Franklin Dam case, tobacco plain packaging and WorkChoices.
"It is regarded, at least in some quarters, as the apotheosis of what has become known as the Brutalist school of architecture," he said.
Mr Wickham said the court typically received around 80,000 visitors a year, including 35,000 school students.
"In pre-COVID times, it was also used as a civic space for free concerts and exhibitions," he said.
"It also houses the Australian Constitution Centre Exhibition, an education space aimed at visiting school students, that tells the story of the creation of the Australian constitution and the role of the High Court in it."
The court, which took five years to build, is not only well known for its civic purposes but also its role in the nation's cultural landscape, featuring in the classic Australian movie The Castle.
The High Court-National Gallery Precinct was entered on the National Heritage List in 2007.
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