Senate Chamber Bench Seat #2003-1369
Two seater chamber bench seat; with a plain upholstered back covered in red leather with plain arms, padded seat with two cushions, over a kidney shaped apron with two locking drawers with brass drawer pulls, on six square section legs.
This Senate Chamber Bench was used in the Senate Chamber between 1927 and 1988, and is still located in the Senate. This bench was designed in 1926 by the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. Murdoch’s design for this bench seat and the other Senate Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament. The design of the Chambers in Provisional Parliament House had a significant impact on the design of the furniture which was to be housed in it. Murdoch had originally designed the seating arrangement to mirror the configuration of parallel seating in the House of Commons in England, but this was rejected by the Standing Committee on Public Works who advocated the horseshoe or semicircular pattern used in the French Chamber of Deputies. This arrangement impressed them as enabling all Members to hear and see proceedings clearly, while allowing each of them to be clearly audible and visible themselves. This meant that the furniture had to fit around a semicircle, presenting a difficult design and manufacturing challenge.
While most of the ceremonial furniture in both Chambers was built by Beard Watson & Co Ltd, the desks and bench seats were supplied by the Myer Emporium Ltd in Melbourne. Made out of Australian blackwood and leather supplied by Howe and Co Ltd, Myer subcontracted Messrs Johnstone and Morrison of Burnley, Victoria to manufacture these items. Sample items of the desks and bench seats were made and delivered so that Members could inspect and comment on their design. Based on their recommendations, alterations were made to the final design of the bench seats, and included the widening of the depth of the seats, and the alignment of the drawer beneath the seat.