Memorial director hits back at architects’ criticism of demolition plans

31 August 2020 15
AWM Australian War Memorial Photo: Michelle Kroll

Australian War Memorial. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Amid growing anger over The Australian War Memorial’s plans for a $500 million expansion, the Memorial’s director has directly addressed concerns. Matt Anderson has responded to pointed criticism in an open letter to all members of the House of Representatives from the Institute of Architects’ 2018-19 national president Clare Cousins. Her criticism centred on the threat to demolish Anzac Hall, calling its destruction wasteful and unnecessary.

I am surprised Ms Cousins claims to represent the views of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) membership as a whole.

Five leading architects (Cox Architecture, Scott Carver, Lyons Architecture, Guida Moseley Brown Architects, and DJAS Architecture), who are AIA members, are currently involved in the delivery of the development project.

I would also like to address the architectural design competition process.


READ ALSO: Institute of Architects urges public inquiry in plea to MPs to save Anzac Hall


The Memorial arrived at the proposed designs over a three-year period. Careful attention was paid at every stage of the process to ensure that the design would protect the heritage value of the original building and the sandstone façade was not impacted.

Four of Australia’s leading firms in public building architecture were selected to develop competition entries for additional gallery space to the north of the main Memorial building. The architects had complete freedom to meet the Memorial’s functional requirements, including the option to retain and expand the current Anzac Hall within the design boundaries and in compliance with the heritage criteria.

Four concept designs – one of which retained an expanded Anzac Hall – were presented to a jury of three highly-regarded architects and two senior Memorial staff. After careful study, the design by Cox Architects – which included replacing Anzac Hall – was chosen as the solution to best meet the Memorial’s needs for the next 50 years.

Matt Anderson

Matt Anderson, director of The Australian War Memorial. Photo: Michael Masters.

A similar design competition was held for the southern entrance, and Scott Carver’s competition entry was selected.

Anyone who would like to read more about the perspectives and position of Cox Architecture and Scott Carver can read more about that on their websites.

Although our plans aim to greatly increase the space available to tell the stories of 100,000 Australian veterans who have served during the past three decades, the change to our existing footprint is designed to be substantially less than the 80 per cent suggested.

Council and staff have a deep respect for the Australian War Memorial, and preserving and sharing Australia’s military history. We are amongst its greatest supporters and protectors.

Matt Anderson is the Director of the Australian War Memorial.


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15 Responses to Memorial director hits back at architects’ criticism of demolition plans
Heather Byrne Heather Byrne 7:31 pm 29 Aug 20

Anzac hall should stay

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 1:47 pm 29 Aug 20

Time for a new director!

    Teresa Layton Teresa Layton 7:41 pm 29 Aug 20

    Keran Niquet he has only just arrived. This was previous directors folly.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 12:30 pm 29 Aug 20

This would cost an enormous amount of money at a difficult time for the evonomy. Also it has attracted so much comment from various sources. I suggest a ” cooling off” period of 3 years, to explore other options.

    Mel Smith Mel Smith 4:30 pm 29 Aug 20

    Trish Roberts this is good for the economy. It is creating jobs and also bringing in tourism.

    Teresa Layton Teresa Layton 7:40 pm 29 Aug 20

    Mel Smith create jobs by building a War museum at another location and charge tourists.

Shaun Hoy Shaun Hoy 11:58 am 29 Aug 20

Why not build another space separately and leave the current layout alone?

Peter Bee Peter Bee 11:24 am 29 Aug 20

From the Director turning a memorial into a Museum with help from the Defence material industry....i’ll trust the architects that are against the stupidity.

    Mel Smith Mel Smith 4:26 pm 29 Aug 20

    Peter Bee it has always been, and was intended to be, a museum.

    Peter Bee Peter Bee 4:30 pm 29 Aug 20

    Mel Smith its a war memorial its not a museum

    Teresa Layton Teresa Layton 7:39 pm 29 Aug 20

    Peter Bee agree, it was always a memorial and not intended to be a museum. Find another location in canberra and build a museum rather than turning this beautiful memorial into a Disneyland of war.

    Martin Smith Martin Smith 11:30 am 30 Aug 20

    Peter Bee Initially it was a memorial, but along the way a gift-shop here ... a cafe there ...

    Ian Kelly Ian Kelly 9:18 am 31 Aug 20

    No, Peter and Teresa, the Memorial's founder Charles Bean always intended it to be both a memorial AND a museum. Having said that, I am totally against the demolition of Anzac Hall and the amount of money being spent, particularly in light of the financial starvation of the other Canberra cultural institutions. I am also quite uneasy about the reported plans to include items that have no real provinence - eg; an F-111, none of which ever fired a shot in anger and have no real story to tell.

Daniel J. Fitzpatrick Daniel J. Fitzpatrick 11:20 am 29 Aug 20

I’d say nearly all architects and people with actual fundamental care of the direction of the institution and just prudent economic management are against this. Just cause you find a very small minority who agree with you doesn’t make you right, this is modern politics personified through eco chambers such as social media. I can just as easily find articles that tell me my phone will give me cancer as those that say there is no link. One will be researched and empirically presented data, the other will be a guy in his basement. The idea that you had quality firms enter into a design competition doesn’t mean they agree whole heatedly wit the proposition, they are a commercial entity, they need work to be viable. Whilst we are dealing with the war memorial, let’s use a war analogy. The scientist that developed the a-bomb, the Manhattan project, where all very keen to investigate the science, however only 15% of the hundreds of scientist working on the project were at ease with it being weaponised and implemented.

sps179 sps179 10:46 am 29 Aug 20

The Director and his handful of architect mates want it. Canberra and Australia don’t.

Under the Rules of Australian Democracy, I guess the Ayes have it.

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