The Mid Century Project Canberra, National Library of Australia, 23 June, 7pm

Following a sell out season as part of Melbourne Design Week and the London Festival of Architecture, Tim Ross and Kit Warhurst invite you to join them for The Mid Century Project at the National Library of Australia. For the past five years they have been skillfully blending storytelling, music and design in a mold breaking format and are thrilled to perform at the National Library as part of the building’s 50 year celebrations.

Tickets include a night time viewing of the Library’s exhibition 1968: Changing Times covering the momentous year the National Library was opened, a mid century inspired film installation and the latest version of Tim Ross’s hit show Man About The House performed with musician Kit Warhurst

“Must see show of the Festival” New York Times

“Had us in stitches” Sunday Times UK

“Hilarious” The Age

With one show only and limited capacity, tickets will sell out, book now to avoid missing out.


Presented in association with the National Library of Australia

Supported by Canberra Modern

Max Dupain (1911–1992) Main Reading Room from Eastern End, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1968 Reproduction from photograph Pictures Collection,


Max Dupain (1911–1992) Card Catalogue at National Library of Australia, 1968


National Library of Australia by Walter Bunning (Bunning and Madden) in association with T.E. O’Mahony (1968) 

The National Library of Australia building located at Parkes Place, Canberra was opened on 15 August 1968 by Prime Minister John Gorton. When the building opened it was the first time since the Library moved to Canberra in 1927 that all of the collections and staff were located in one building.

Walter Bunning (1912-1977) of the architectural firm Bunning and Madden was the chief architect in association with T.E. O’Mahony. The style of the building is ‘Contemporary Classical’ (‘Late-Twentieth Century Stripped Classical’), influenced by the work of American architect Edward Stone and the Parthenon in Greece. The building was planned to have the same amount of columns (17 x 8) but the National Capital Development Commission cut one row of columns (to 16 x 8) to save $250,000.

Prime Minister Robert Menzies took a great interest in the Library’s development and funding. He was openly adverse to the idea of a modern building. He favoured ‘something with Columns’. Bunning’s classical vision meant traditional building materials were used. The exterior of the building is light-coloured marble cladding, with granite, bronze, slate and copper. The podium walls are grey trachyte and the roof is copper.

The interior of the building was also carefully considered. Fine Australian woods were used in some of the reading rooms. The Nan Kivell room, previously the Manuscripts Reading Room, is panelled with red cedar and the Asian Collections Reading is panelled in grass paper and wood trim in bleached coachwood. The furniture was designed by Fred Ward and Arthur Robinson. Examples of the heritage furniture still feature in the Library.

After 7 years of design and construction the final building cost in 1968 was $8 million plus $600,000 in furnishings and equipment.

1968: Changing Times Exhibition at the National Library of Australia

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll … and a missing prime minister.

1968 was a momentous year. Not only was it the year the National Library’s beautiful building opened, it was a time of tumultuous events. Whether it was the war in Vietnam, student demonstrations, the murder of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, the Prague Spring or the blistering power of a Hendrix solo, there was a strong sense that the world would never be the same again.

Australia also faced challenges. Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared in the surf at Cheviot Beach, presumed drowned in December 1967. A new prime minister, John Gorton, was sworn in in January 1968. While The Beatles, Cream and Hendrix beamed over the radio, there was growing unrest in Australia about conscription for overseas military service… and many other things.

Where was the world headed?

The opening of the Library’s new building in Canberra in August 1968 was a moment of national pride and achievement in the midst of this turbulent time.

Revisit the 60s with us as we celebrate the building’s 50th birthday, reflecting on what was happening in the world, in Australia, and in Canberra at the time.

The Who, Paul Jones, Small Faces /design/illustration: Ian McCausland