British Columbia Parliament Buildings

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British Columbia Parliament Buildings
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and serve as the seat of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The Speaker and the Sergeant-At-Arms are amongst those responsible for the legislative precinct, which by statute include the Parliament Buildings and grounds. The Neo-Baroque buildings face north on Belleville street facing the Inner Harbour and diagonally across from The Empress Hotel. A large statue of Queen Victoria stands on the front lawn as well a statue of a soldier to commemorate the province's World War I, World War II and Korean War dead. Atop the central dome is a gold-covered statue of Captain George Vancouver. Free guided tours of the facility are offered year- round.

From 1856 to 1860 the Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island sat at Bachelor's Hall at Fort Victoria. From 1860 to 1898 it was housed in the first permanent building at Legislative Hall or Birdcages (burned down 1957). Construction of a new Parliament Building was first authorized by an act of the provincial legislature in 1893, the Parliament Buildings Construction Act. The province, anxious to show its growing economic, social and political status, was engaged in an architectural competition to build a new legislative building in Victoria, after outgrowing the previous wooden building, colloquially known as "The Birdcages" because of their shape, which were notoriously drafty and leaked in wet weather. Francis Rattenbury, a recent English immigrant entered and signed his drawings with the pseudonym "A B.C. Architect", he progressed to the second round signing his drawing "For Queen and Province" and eventually winning the competition, despite being only 25 years old. Despite many problems, including going over budget—the original budget was $500,000 the final amount was $923,000—the British Columbia Parliament Buildings were officially opened in 1898 . The grand scale of its 500-ft (152-m) long andesite façade , central dome and two end pavilions, the richness of its white marble, and combination of Baroque rigorous symmetry, use of domes and sculptural massing with the rusticated surfaces of the currently popular Romanesque Revival style contributed to its being an innovative and impressive monument for the young province. Its success garnered Rattenbury many more commissions in Victoria and other parts of the province, including the Legislative Library 1913-1915, the design of The Empress Hotel, the Crystal Gardens indoor swimming pool nearby, and the Vancouver Court House (now the Vancouver Art Gallery). The andesite of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings is from Haddington Island in the Alert Bay Volcanic Belt. The granite used to build the buildings came from Nelson Island, at the mouth of Jervis Inlet, on the Sunshine Coast. Besides the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly, two organizations have been granted the privilege of using the Legislative Chambers during the legislature's December recess: the British Columbia Youth Parliament (since 1924, except during its sessions in the late 1940s and early 1950s) and the British Columbia Universities' Model Parliament. During the 1994 Commonwealth Games, free music concerts were held on the front lawns of the buildings, attracting up to 40,000 people. Similar-sized crowds have gathered on the front lawn over the years, ranging from political protests and rallies, such as during the Solidarity Crisis of 1983, to celebrations of various kinds, including the BC 150 ceremonies.

Mural controversy
In April 2007, members of the legislature voted to remove murals in the legislature lobby which depict scenes of B.C. history from 1792 to 1843. Artist George Southwell was commissioned to paint them in 1932 and they were completed three years later. At issue is the depiction of west coast first nations' people in a manner some regard as degrading. One painting titled Labour portrays bare-breasted aboriginal women hauling timber while a white man looks on. Another titled Justice shows a native leader standing before a judge. One interpretation of this latter mural suggests that the judge in question is the famous judge', Matthew Begbie, suggesting the subjugation of natives to colonial law. However, Southwell's daughter claims that her father depicted the native leader standing before another judge, this one who in fact championed native rights. Chief Ed John (himself a former cabinet minister in a prior New Democrat government) has said that the murals remind him of how some traders treated First Nations women — not much better than prostitutes. Three of 71 members of the legislature voted against the motion to endorse a proposal to bring down the murals. Since the murals are painted on to the walls of the rotunda, the cost of removing them was estimated at C$280,000. The original 1991 report, first commissioned by the former New Democrat government, calls for the murals to be moved to a museum location where they can be put into better historical perspective. Since that vote, the murals have been fully restored and sealed out of view behind false walls.
  • Parliament Buildings (Canada)

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