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A parliamentary design with a distinctly Australian touch

Australia is planning to build a new parliament house complete with boomerang-curved walls to mark its 200th anniversary of European settlement in January 1988.

The complex will be designed by Australian architect Richard G. Thorp, whose scheme was recently chosen from among 329 entries.

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The building is to become the focal point of the city's master plan. Final decisions to proceed will be taken by the federal Cabinet later this month and by the Federal Parliament in late August.

Approval seems certain. The simple but functional design has garnered widespread acceptance among architects and politicians. The estimated $156 million project came in only $5 million over the government-approved figure, although the final cost is likely to be much higher.

Nevertheless, none of the country's political leaders was prepared to be seen looking or commenting on the design at its recent unveiling. A great deal of politicians sensitivity undoubtedly surrounds the idea of politicians providing themselves with a complex 3 1/2 times bigger than their present one.

The Australian High Court recently moved into permanent quarters that cost more than $50 million -- three times the original estimate.

For the past 53 years Australian lawmakers have conducted business in a "temporary" building in the middle of a parliamentary triangle here. The new parliament building is to sit at the apex of the triangle. It will reflect the facade of the old parliament and is to be linked to it by a huge mall.

The buildings will be "buried" in capital hill. An earthcovered ramp sprouting a small park will form the roof of a central public reception area.

Two curved "boomerang" walls will separate the two houses of parliament. The executive office is to be located at the southern end of the central building. Several of the design judges -- including noted architect I. M. Pei -- have lauded the scheme for its simplicity.

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