ALIA House


Architect Phillip Cox Richardson Taylor and Partners 
Builder Kell and Rigby
Project manager Baillieu Knight Frank
Location 9-11 Napier Close, Deakin, ACT 2600
Construction period February 1989 to November 1990
Cost of construction Approximately $3 million

Brief history

The decision to construct ALIA House and relocate the Association's National Office to Canberra was taken in November 1988, after 12 months of investigating the options.

In November 1988, an Association Building Project Team was constituted, consisting of the then President, Alan Bundy, Ian McCallum, Alex Byrne and the Executive Director, Sue Kosse. In 1989, Averill Edwards replaced Alan Bundy as the incoming President, Eoin Wilkinson replaced Alex Byrne.

Baillieu Knight Frank was engaged to project manage the construction of ALIA House in December 1988, led by Bill Rushton.

Phillip Cox was employed as the building's architect in early 1989 after the Association conducted a competition between four architects. Phillip Cox's design was felt to show the most vision and the most understanding of the concept of libraries and their future.

Construction of ALIA House commenced in February 1989. The Foundation Stone was set in October 1989 by the Governor General, Bill Hayden. Mr Hayden removed his jacket, spurned the gloves offered, grabbed a shovel and personally dug in and mortared the Foundation Stone, into the ground in what is now the conference room. All ALIA Members were invited to this ceremony. About 200 people attended, and Mr and Mrs Hayden stayed on after the ceremony for the reception that followed.

The Honourable Ros Kelly, Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories opened the building in November 1990. All Members were invited, and again, about 200 people attended.

Building design features


The foyer was carefully considered. The design represents symbolism of libraries: it is circular, the floor is of marble, and it has a glass dome above it. The gallery level is similar to a gallery in a library, where there would normally be bookshelves. The marble floor was designed by Brian Sadgrove of Melbourne. Mr Sadgrove had also undertaken projects for the National Bank of Australia and Mobil Australia. The design is from a series of four designs, based on his original artwork, and depicts 'Litter on the Forest Floor'. The marble is Italian, as Australian marble was much more expensive.


Other features

The construction of the glass windows at the front of the building was designed to represent ends of book stacks. The roof cone and barrel vaults were symbols of the future.

Original fitout

The fitout was aimed to be as functional as possible, and the decor warm and welcoming. The carpet, in its warm colours, was designed personally by the Building Project Team and specially manufactured. The original suggestion from the architect of a plain tomato-red carpet throughout was rejected as being a little too bright.

The layout of the entrance foyer, conference room and courtyard were designed to operate, when required, as a single unit for functions.

The table in the conference room was designed and constructed in South Australia from a Queensland timber, Sapelli. The furniture in the members' room was made in Western Australia. The Building Project Team saw the members' room as an important element of the building, and had originally intended it to be larger - however, additional space was needed for tenants and storage.


In 2008, Canberra design firm Spacelift created a new fit out for the ALIA office (ALIA occupying approximately 25% of ALIA House, the remaining 75% being let to tenants).

Canberra Centenary Time Capsule

In October 2013, organisations and individuals representing the Canberra community were invited to contribute to the Canberra Centenary Time Capsule, to be sealed on the last day of the centenary year, 11 March 2014. One hundred sets of objects were included, one of which was from ALIA. This comprised a sketch of ALIA House by the architect Philip Cox, photographs of the building at various stages, and historical notes.

The Time Capsule is contained in the Canberra Centenary Column, on City Hill, and is scheduled to be opened on 11 March 2114.