Controversial Council House marks 50 years
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi at the Perth City Council building. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

It is the most vivid building in Perth city's night skyline and next week Council House will celebrate 50 years of colourful history.

Regarded by many as the most important example of modernist architecture in Perth, Council House was opened on March 25, 1963, by the Queen.

In commemoration, an exhibition of memorabilia and 25 specially commissioned artworks will be opened next Monday by Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.

"I think that the Council House is a beacon for all the dreams and hopes we have for our capital city," Ms Scaffidi said.

"If that building could talk, it would have some incredible stories to tell. The decisions that have been made in that building for the city, the people who have been in office there. Then there's its own travel in terms of facing demolition and being reborn again."

Designed by architects Jeffrey Howlett and Don Bailey - who also designed the Perth Concert Hall - the building has faced many obstacles in its 50 years.

The site was nearly home to a spherical concert hall in a 1960 model of Council House, but the plan was scrapped by Mr Howlett and Mr Bailey. Before construction began in 1961, there was a fierce campaign to move the building to the waterfront. That was quashed.

Thirty years later, heritage and architecture experts and lobbyists led an impassioned two-year campaign to save the building after it was vacated for the removal of asbestos and was earmarked for demolition.

A fully refurbished Council House reopened in 1999 and was added to the permanent Heritage Register in 2006.

In 2010, the building illuminated the city skyline with a changing mix of more than 20,000 LED globes to make Perth more attractive after-hours.

Mr Bailey will attend the celebrations and Mr Howlett's son Greg will attend for his father, who died in 2005.

The exhibition runs until May 24 and will explore the history of the building, displaying the original architectural plans, custom-made 1960s furniture and other rarely seen memorabilia.

Artists Maggie Baxter, Helena Bogucki, Sandra Black, Andrew Nicholls and Denise Pepper have worked with textiles, metal, ceramics and glass to create 25 unique objects.

The West Australian

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