Honorary awards

Professor Romaldo Giurgola AO

The degree of Doctor of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa) was conferred upon Professor Romaldo Giurgola AO at the Architecture ceremony held at 2.00pm on 28 March 2003.

Professor Romaldo Giurgola AO

Mr Giurgola (front, centre) followed by Jan Utzon, making their way to the ceremony with the Dean of Architecture, Professor Gary Moore (front, left) and Professor John Carter (front, right), Civil Engineering Adjunct Professor and then Chair of the Academic Board, photo, courtesy UniNews 11 April 2003.


Chancellor, I have the honour to present Professor Romaldo Giurgola AO for the conferring of the degree of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa).

There are moments in history when the forces of good conspire to achieve a particular outcome. Such was the case in 1979 when Romaldo Giurgola agreed to enter the International Architectural Competition for the New Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

A lifetime of commitment and demonstrated excellence in the profession had prepared Romaldo Giurgola for this commission. In hindsight one can see in his earlier work a concern for and the development of original and humanistic architecture that would have its ultimate flowering in what became Mitchell Giurgola and Thorpe’s proposals for the magnificent building that rose on Walter Burleigh Griffin’s “Capital Hill.” Today we honour not a particular building design – one of the two signature buildings in Australia –but rather the life work of this architect and architectural educator, who through more than half a century of designing, teaching and writing about the importance of place and meaning in the built environment, has enriched the lives of individuals, communities and countries.

Romaldo Giurgola was born in Italy, the son of an architect practising in Rome. Following the completion of his studies there, his talent was recognised through the award of a Fulbright Scholarship that enabled him to travel to New York to undertake graduate studies at Columbia University. This in turn led to extensive travel and then a position in the Faculty of Architecture at Cornell University, and later at the University of Pennsylvania, where in the early 1960s, a group of bright young architects were gathered around Louis Kahn. The group in Philadelphia quickly developed an international reputation for works and ideas exploring a human architecture beyond the reigning formal modernism. With Giurgola as a central member, they became known as The Philadelphia School, which today continues to hold one of the seminal positions in the post-war history of the profession in North America.

Aldo, as he likes to be known, continued his commitment to teaching continuously from 1954 to this day. He was appointed Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, Resident Professor in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1977, and the Thomas Jefferson Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia in 1979. He also served as Professor and Head of Architecture at Columbia and later was appointed as the Ware Professor of Architecture from 1967. Since March 2000 he as served as Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the University of Sydney.

His architectural practice mirrored his teaching locations, and two Mitchell/Giurgola offices are today busy in Philadelphia and New York City, as well as two more here in Australia in Canberra and Sydney. Under Aldo’s design leadership, major commissions flowed from the firm throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and Mitchell/Giurgola became synonymous with thoughtful, humanistic architectural design, leading to successful architectural design competition entries as well as many international architectural design awards.

Today the two MGT firms in Canberra and Sydney are busier than ever. Professor Giurgola continues his involvement on projects together with his steadfast advice and counsel for the Faculty of Architecture. Currently, the City of Parramatta is witnessing the construction of one of Romaldo Giurgola’s major recent works, the new Parramatta Cathedral.

His works are featured in all of the world’s major architectural journals as well as in major books on world architecture. He has received the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture and the Sir Zelman Cowan Award. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, from both of whom he has received their highest honours – the AIA Gold Medal in 1982 and the RAIA Gold Medal in 1988. In 1972 he was made a Commendatore by the President of the Republic of Italy and in 1989 was inducted as an Officer in the Order of Australia.

As well as Professor Giurgola’s highly regarded writings on cities, urban design and architecture, and numerous designs of urban clarity and refinement, his work has demonstrated a real interest and concern for the landscape, as architectural writer Kenneth Frampton noted in his Foreword to the book, Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, “Giurgola’s site planning is at its most poetic and evocative where the landscape itself is particularly strong and where it is related in a direct way to primal cosmic elements”.

It is perhaps this sensitivity for the land that made the Parliament House design proposal so appropriate, grafted as it was on to Walter Burley Griffin’s landscape masterpiece. Today it is hard to separate the one from the other, and the Australian Capital owes an enormous debt to these two men whose origins were on the far sides of the world.

Romaldo Giurgola has been tireless in his striving for excellence and meaning in architecture and in architectural education, attributes that describe his teaching and each of his numerous built works throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Universally one hears that it is his humanity, his humility and his respect for the contributions of others that makes him so easy to work with in the environment of a team, which in turn brings the best of everyone on to the focus of creating a better world.

Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting to you for admission to the degree of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa) a great ambassador for architecture in Australia, Professor Romaldo Giurgola.