THE Australian Institute of Architects is urging the federal parliament’s Public Works Committee to reconsider plans to demolish Anzac Hall after an “overwhelming majority” of people opposed these plans in an inquiry.
Giving evidence at a public hearing in Canberra today (July 14), the institute’s CEO, Julia Cambage, raised serious issues of due process and grave concerns about the demolition of Anzac Hall at the nationally significant site.
“Far from being a simple exercise in rubber-stamping, this inquiry provides a critically important opportunity to reset these expansion plans and address the many legitimate concerns raised in the record number of submissions the committee has received,” Ms Cambage says.
“The overwhelming majority, some 80 per cent of submissions, oppose or express concern about demolishing Anzac Hall.
“The demolition of Anzac Hall is grossly wasteful and unnecessary. It is a building meticulously designed and crafted to honour national service which now holds two decades’ worth of precious experiences where countless veterans, families and visitors have engaged in shared remembrance.
Ms Cambage says the inquiry feedback comes from veterans and their families, concerned citizens, distinguished and honoured Australians, leading academics, renowned historians, as well as former memorial directors and staff.
“The Australian War Memorial is one of our most highly valued and deeply cherished public institutions. Its expansion must occur in a way that expends public funds judiciously and preserves the site’s sacrosanct nature,” she says.
“Anzac Hall still has many decades of useful life ahead of it and we know that at least three other preliminary expansion designs met the same requirements for increased floor space while also retaining Anzac Hall.
“Demolishing Anzac Hall would breach the War Memorial’s own Heritage Management Plans which explicitly require its retention.
“Given time, we are confident that Anzac Hall will achieve status as a heritage listed building in its own right – something the plans to bulldoze it clearly seek to avoid, setting a dangerous precedent for other iconic sites.
“When other significant public institutions have embarked on journeys of expansion and redevelopment, such as the National Gallery, they have engaged openly and constructively with our organisation and many others to achieve the best outcomes for the Australian community.
“Had we been consulted, the institute could have provided expert assistance in the conduct of best practice design competition to creatively explore further options identified in the Preliminary Design stage, which would have supported the retention of Anzac Hall.
“The Committee has a serious responsibility to ensure the appropriate expenditure of public funds. We urge them to to act on the evidence presented to this inquiry and require amendments to the proposal to address the very legitimate concerns raised and engender broad public support.”