Controversial Australian War Memorial expansion referred to parliamentary inquiry

The controversial expansion of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.

The $500 million project will consist of a new southern entrance designed by Scott Carver, a new Anzac Hall and glazed link designed by Cox Architecture, as well as the extension to the Bean building, public realm works and the refurbishment of the main building, designed by Emil Sodersten and John Crust and completed in 1941. The heritage facades will remain unchanged.

It will also require the demolition of the existing Anzac Hall, designed by Denton Corker Marshall, itself referred to the same parliamentary committee in 1999. Completed in 2001, Anzac Hall received the 2005 Sir Zelman Cowan Award for Public Architecture as well as the 2005 Canberra Medallion.

If demolished, it will be the only Sir Zelman Cowan Award-winning building to face that grim fate. The planned demolition has been widely derided by the architectural profession and broader public.

The Australian Institute of Architects released an open letter signed by a number of Gold Medalists to the federal government criticizing the proposed demolition as “a mark of disrespect.” It also launched a campaign to stop the demolition in November 2018.

A separate open letter signed by 83 distinguished Australians, said of the proposed expansion that an “excessive veneration of the Anzac story denies the richness of our history.”

Signatories to that letter, which was coordinated by the advocacy group Heritage Guardian, included Gold Medalists John Denton of Denton Corker Marshall, the late Enrico Taglietti, who designed the Australian War Memorial Annex, and Peter McIntyre. Also signing were writers Richard Flanagan, Thomas Keneally and Don Watson, Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017), and Gillian Triggs, former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In December 2019, a review commissioned by the Australian Institute of Architects found the proposed redevelopment would “dominate and swamp” the existing memorial.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works will consider, and report on, “the stated purpose of the proposed work and its suitability for that purpose; the need for the work; the cost-effectiveness of the proposal; and the amount of revenue it will produce.”

Interested persons and organizations are invited to make submissions to the committee, which can be lodged online until 17 June 2020.

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