‘False’ Anzac Hall claims anger architects

THE Australian Institute of Architects is calling on the Australian War Memorial management to clarify false and misleading claims published yesterday (Sunday, April 7) about the future of Anzac Hall.

In comments reported in the “Canberra Times”, a spokesperson for the Australian War Memorial said: “The replacement of Anzac Hall represents best value for money while maximising exhibition space, without risk to the integrity of the original heritage building.”

When asked if the memorial would consider a design that did not demolish Anzac Hall, the spokesperson said: “Any design that met the cost and space parameters would be assessed equally.”

The Australian Institute of Architects’ national president Clare Cousins says these claims contradict the tender documents issued by the Australian War Memorial via AusTender on February 13.

Australian Institute of Architects’ national president Clare Cousins. Photo: John O’Rourke

“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,” she says.

“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.”

The Australian Institute of Architects’ ACT chapter president Philip Leeson says the spokesperson’s suggestion that “any design that met the cost and space parameters would be assessed equally”, contradicts Australian War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson’s previous statements.

“Dr Nelson has been categorical in saying that Anzac Hall will be demolished,” Mr Leeson says.

“That’s what he told representatives from the Australian Institute of Architects when he met with us, at our request, on November 7 last year and it’s the same thing he’s said to the media.”

In “The Australian” in November 1 Dr Nelson said the works would begin with the knockdown of the ANZAC Hall in 2020 and its replacement with a much larger building.

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 says.

“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.”

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