The Main Works proposal for the redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial includes massive changes to the original design and setting that impact the institution’s character and damage its heritage values, according to a submission from the National Trust of Australia (ACT).
The public consultation period on the Main Works proposal closed last Friday (10 September) and attracted hundreds of submissions.
The Early Works, including the demolition of Anzac Hall, have already been approved and are underway. This proposal was for the new Anzac Hall and Glazed Link; the new Southern Entrance, forecourt and parade ground; and the Bean Building Extension.
The War Memorial says the controversial $500 million redevelopment is needed to tell the stories of more recent conflicts and missions, justifying it partly as a contribution to the healing process for veterans.
The National Trust lacerated the proposal, saying the supporting evidence on heritage issues appears weak and inconsistent and the whole design should be reviewed.
“It appears to be written to justify a predetermined outcome rather than a professional and objective report. The fact that it was prepared four months before the design was finalised and submitted is alarming.
“We are not convinced by the evidence provided that this design can be supported or should be approved as the impact on heritage values is significant,” it concluded.
The National Trust took issue with claims the new form would not alter the character of the site, saying the new main entry and new Anzac Hall are both massive changes, the first transforming the view from Anzac Parade, and the second enveloping the rear section of the Memorial and dominating the view from Mt Ainslie.
It says the proposal contradicts itself by saying it has respect for the Memorial’s heritage values yet admits that the replacement of Anzac Hall has a significant impact on those heritage values.
“The suggestion that the so-called adverse physical impact is balanced by positive social values is not justified or supported by evidence,” the National Trust says.
“The appreciation of the existing building in a landscape will be lost forever and dwarfed by the new extension and glassed link.”
It says the glazed link will have a huge impact on the setting and the protrusion of the oculus in front of the building is a major intrusion.
“The fact that the glazed link will be somewhat visible along the land axis is alarming,” the Trust says. “The fact that it will reflect light and be clearly noticeable even if a relatively small projection has not been considered in the [heritage] assessment.
The National Trust rejects the Heritage Impact Statement view that the new entrance makes little change to the external presentation of the main building, when the existing front stairs, the plinths on either side and the central section of the current entry, all part of the original design, will be removed.
It also cannot accept that the new Anzac Hall and glazed link enhance the heritage values.
“The argument that it provides space for a larger display is not an enhancement of the existing heritage values which in part is with the physical form and fabric,” the National Trust says.
It says exhibition requirements do not justify the need to impact other fundamental heritage values.
The National Trust says the EPBC National Consultation Report appears focused on establishing social interaction with veterans and not addressing the impact on the physical place or setting.
“A social support to a larger memorial does not need to have an adverse impact on the heritage values of design, fabric and setting but in this situation it has,” it says.
Critics of the proposal say the scope and cost of the redevelopment are unjustified, that the enlargement will house war machines and that it is not in keeping with the Memorial’s original commemorative mission.