The Australian War Memorial should be required to modify its $500 million redevelopment plans and provide alternatives to the demolition of Anzac Hall, according to an independent heritage review commissioned by the Australian Institute of Architects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the official plans for the controversial nine-year project last November, including the proposal for a new southern underground entrance, refurbishment of the main building, a new larger Anzac Hall connected to the main building, an extension to the Bean Building and public realm works.
The independent review forms the basis of the Institute’s submission on the Memorial’s EPBC Referral, which raises significant and ongoing concerns about the planned demolition of Anzac Hall and threats to the heritage value of the site, including the nationally significant Eastern Precinct Development, as well as the AWM failing to follow due process.
“The Institute recognises the need and in principal understands that ongoing development of the AWM will include the provision of more exhibition space. However, it is essential that the National and Commonwealth heritage values and solemn purpose and nature of the site as a memorial are retained in all decision-making processes,” it says.
Ashley Built Heritage’s review calls for the Referral to be identified as a Controlled Action and that the AWM be required to revise the proposal to identify ”prudent alternatives” that would retain Anzac Hall, abandon the glazed courtyard addition and revise the southern entry so the current experience is retained.
“After such changes the Referral should be resubmitted and considered via the EPBC Act pathway that includes opportunities for substantive public review and comment given the national significance of this place,” it says.
The review says the bulk and visibility of the glazed courtyard addition to the Memorial would result in a loss of the visibility of the Memorials’ architectural values and form associated with its deeper meaning as a shrine.
The second significant impact would be the demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall, a key component of the AWM Precinct that is carefully set back from the main Memorial to protect its setting while still having its own architectural qualities of the highest order.
The review says the third key impact is that the arrival to the AWM will be reduced, delaying and obscuring what currently is an immediate and profound experience.
It also says the proposed new southern entrance threatens the fabric of the Memorial, and all the proposed built forms and associated hard landscaping put the overall character of the landcsape at risk.
The review says the Referral does not comply with a number of the policies contained in Heritage Management Plans for the AWM, including those that require the retention, conservation and interpretation of Anzac Hall.
Ashley Built Heritage also identified other problems with the Referral.
A Reference Design, that included the demolition of Anzac Hall, was a mandatory requirement in the architectural design competition, even though three other Preliminary Designs met the same floor space requirements but retained Anzac Hall.
The public consultation has been limited, excluding actual design concepts and professional stakeholders such as the Institute or the Moral Rights holders of Anzac Hall.
Only some parts of the proposed redevelopment are dealt with in the Referral, instead of all aspects being included in the one public process.
The Institute also believes that due process has not been followed.
The Institute is extremely disappointed that not only did the Reference Design significantly constrain the usual creative competition design processes, it also lost the opportunity to creatively explore further options identified in the Preliminary Design stage, which would have supported the retention of Anzac Hall.
It says parts of the project, such as the temporary car park, have already been approved by the National Capital Authority, which acknowledged it was part of the overall redevelopment project.
“The Institute has significant concerns about the process followed in relation to heritage considerations for the $498.7 million Redevelopment Project and the extent to which the entire project has progressed without the relevant heritage approvals in place,” the Institute says.
“The Memorial has legislative obligations for the protection and conservation of the heritage values for all Australians. It is not apparent that the Memorial has liaised effectively or to the extent required for such a significant project or adequately assessed the proposal’s cumulative impact on the site.”