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Desk #1999-1222Office of the President of the Senate, President of the Senate’s Suite, North Wing, Main Floor

Black bean desk with black leather inset top surface, mitred corners, on square section legs.

History

This desk was designed by the Department of Works in 1972 for the President of the Senate’s suite. It was used by the President of the Senate from 1972 to 1988.

During the early 1970s acute accommodation shortages in the building necessitated a major phase of redevelopment in which extensions were made to the front west and east sections of the building, new offices constructed on the roof and a new wing on the Senate side erected to match the wing added on the Representatives side in 1965. This redevelopment included a new President of the Senate’s suite, new meeting rooms on the lower floor, and a new suite for the Prime Minister and his staff. New furniture, such as this desk, was crafted to complement these new rooms.

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Statement of values

This desk is significant as the only one of this design known to have survived from the period.

This desk is significant through its association with the extensions to the Provisional Parliament House, in particular the President of the Senate’s suite. Additions to the original collection, such as this desk, are significant in documenting important stages in the adaptation of the building to meet the ever increasing demands of accommodating more Members and their staff, a process which continued until the relocation of the Australian Parliament in 1988. Significantly, the extensive modifications to the building arose from combining the functions of the executive arm of government and the legislative function in the one building. This desk was used by the Presidents of the Senate between 1972 and 1988, associating it with important political people in Australian history including Justin O’Byrne, Sir Condor Laucke, Sir Harold Young, and Douglas McClelland.

This desk is also significant in representing a change of style in furnishing the President of the Senate’s Suite: rather than the bespoke furniture designed by the architect to fit out the building in the 1920s, the furniture supplied for new suites such as this and that of the Senate President’s tended to be standard factory-produced executive office furniture. Integrity with the building was achieved by the use of timber as used throughout the building. The combination of this plain, utilitarian and unornamented furniture with the richly textured walls of the suite made a strong but minimalist style statement.

This desk is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the building, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices.

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Details

Width 1900mm
Height 730mm
Depth 910mm
Medium Black bean; timber; hide
Creator’s name Department of Works
Date created 1972