The Australian Institute of Architects is calling on the Australian War Memorial management to clarify false and misleading claims published yesterday about the future of Anzac Hall.
In comments reported in the Canberra Times, a spokesperson for the Australian War Memorial is quoted as saying, ‘The replacement of Anzac Hall represents best value for money while maximising exhibition space, without risk to the integrity of the original heritage building.’
The newspaper goes on to report that, ‘When asked if the memorial would consider a design that did not demolish Anzac Hall, he said any design that met the cost and space parameters would be assessed equally.’
National President Clare Cousins said these claims contradicted the tender documents issued by the Australian War Memorial via AusTender on 13 February 2019.
‘The EOI [expression of interest] issued by the Australian War Memorial expressly requires the demolition of Anzac Hall and construction of a new structure and glass atrium,’ Ms Cousins said.
‘For their spokesperson to suggest that other design outcomes would be considered is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.
‘To suggest the demolition of Anzac Hall offers the least risk to the heritage integrity of the original building is preposterous. The current structure was designed specifically to be sympathetic to the main structure and we would argue has since accrued its own heritage value as well.
‘The EOI does not allow any other design other than in accordance with the reference design which is tied to a new structure and glass atrium – so it severely limits the options.
‘This is a corruption of the intended purpose of reference designs– they should only be used to see what can be done and to develop a business case. It is rare for the reference design to be the final design.
‘The design as a whole should be going out as an architectural competition and the Australian War Memorial should be seeking the Institute’s endorsement of the competition – a precedent clearly set for other landmark structures.
‘We have acted as an advisor for competitions for New Parliament House, the National Museum, and extensions to the National Gallery and our exclusion from this project will be to the detriment of the final outcome.’
ACT Chapter President Philip Leeson said the spokesperson’s suggestion that ‘…any design that met the cost and space parameters would be assessed equally’ directly contradicts Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson’s previous statements, both public and private.
‘Dr Nelson has been categorical in saying that Anzac Hall will be demolished,’ Mr Leeson said.
‘That’s what he told representatives from the Australian Institute of Architects when he met with us, at our request, on 7 November last year and it’s the same thing he’s said to the media.’
‘By the time it goes down we will have had 19 wonderful years out of it.’ – Dr Brendan Nelson, Canberra Times, 1 November
‘Dr Nelson said the works would begin with the knockdown of the ANZAC Hall in 2020 and its replacement with a much larger building.’ – The Australian, 1 November
Australian Institute of Architects’ Gold Medallists have also published an open letter opposing the demolition plans.
‘The Institute has received overwhelming feedback from members expressing their outrage and opposition to the demolition plans, which lack transparency and any genuine consultation,’ Ms Cousins said.
‘I’ve received numerous calls from architectural colleagues advising that they would not be responding to the Australian War Memorial’s EOI on this basis.
‘The Australian War Memorial’s single-minded determination to demolish the award-winning Anzac Hall, without engaging with industry, seriously undermines the immense value of our public architecture.
‘Our members care deeply about the work they do, they respect and value the work of their peers, and of the profession more broadly. They are looking to the Institute to defend not only this building that has received such acclaim, but the process that surrounds decision making about our iconic structures, and we will.’
‘The response to the demolition plans locally has been incredibly strong and impassioned, both from Institute members and the wider community,’ said Mr Leeson.
‘Largely in response to public demand, we have this week launched an online petition to save Anzac Hall. We have an ever-growing pool of people, including a number of high-profile Australians, coming to us unprompted to offer their support.
‘People are quite simply at a loss as to why options that allow for the preservation of the existing structure as part of the expansion don’t appear to have been given due consideration.
‘If the Australian War Memorial’s management thought our and the community’s opposition to their destructive plans would simply fade away, they have grossly miscalculated.’