To Whom It May Concern,
I write to the Australian War Memorial regarding the EPBC Submission for the New Southern Entrance and the Anzac Hall project. I write as representative of Scott Carver Pty Ltd.
Our submission is in response to the EPBC Submission and includes a commentary on a number of key items, in particular:
• Item 1: The stated purpose of the proposed work and its suitability for that purpose;
• Item 2: The need for the work;
• Item 3: The cost-effectiveness of the proposal.
We also wish to clarify the perception that the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) and the membership it represents unilaterally objects to the redevelopment projects inclusive of the New Southern Entrance and the New Anzac Hall Project; as has been implied in various publications.
By way of introduction, as are the Architectural design practice for the New Southern Entrance project; and hence declare an interest in the project.
Our involvement in the project has occurred through a two-stage process. In March of 2019, we submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) in response to a national EOI process. The EOI sought architectural design practices with evidenced exemplar project experience; and a team with relevance and experience in designing within a heritage significant environment. In the case of our core experience, we note that Scott Carver has extensively worked on the World Heritage listed Sydney Opera House, with 45 projects completed since 2010. Our most recent renewal work within the Opera Theatre received in late 2019, the UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Award for New Design Works in Heritage Contexts.
In regards to the EOI, we understand a significant number of architectural practices, throughout Australia, submitted in response to the EOI, for the opportunity to participate in one of four projects.
Of these projects, four design practices were shortlisted for each of the design excellence competitions for The New Southern Entrance and the Anzac Hall project. Scott Carver had the honour of being selected to participate in the New Southern Entrance national design excellence competition. Through this competition, our scheme was selected by a Jury inclusive of three well-regarded Architects. In turn, the highly awarded firms of Cox were selected for Anzac Hall; and Lyons commissioned for the Bean Building.
Importantly, in the submission and assessment of the competition entry, there were seven key assessment criteria’s, that the submissions were required to address and evidence design excellence against:
- Connectivity and Circulation
- Capacity and Sensitivity
- Sustainability and Climatic Response; and
- Respectful and Dignified Visual Impact.
It was these criteria and attitudes that we believe has been embodied in both our design scheme for the New Southern Entrance and the Cox scheme for the Anzac Hall that we have come familiar with over the past 12 months.
Item 1: The stated purpose of the proposed work and its suitability for that purpose.
Within the formal submission by the Australian War Memorial, a detailed summation of this topic is provided. Our letter simply seeks to clarify how we believe the projects responds to not only the stated purpose of the Memorial; but also, the suitability of the work.
As we understand it, the Australian War Memorial Act sets out three functions for the Memorial including ‘memorial’, ‘museum’ and ‘archive’.
In the case of the New Southern Entrance and the Anzac Hall project, they are both responding to the key functions of ‘memorial’ and museum’ by providing design solutions that are:
- Visually and emotionally connecting to the existing building, ensuring the Memorials national significant through integration.
- Physically connecting in a discrete and respectful manner in order to be subservient to the gravitas of the original Memorial building and its’ key visual prominence to Anzac Parade. In the case of the New Southern Entrance this is achieved through a carefully considered underground response that retains the existing entrance stairs, forecourt and plinths. It should be stressed that in the design of the New Southern Entrance the reinstatement of these elements has been considered in detail through the engagement of a heritage sandstone specialist to ensure the original fabric is well protected and preserved.
- Draws in visitors in an intuitive, natural and accessible manner. This in turn improves the visitors experience, by providing dignity in arrival and departure; easing what is invariably an emotive journey for many that visit the Memorial.
- Provides long term resilience and flexibility in the new gallery spaces and adaptable public spaces for the Memorial and its’ collection.
- Provides a sense of place, through visual connection to the existing Memorial. Within the New Southern Entrance, a skylight that draws on the existing Memorial dome over the Hall of Memories, provides visual connection to the existing building. It ensures the existing entrance retains its’ heritage significance, whilst concealing the pragmatic needs of visitor arrival out of sight from the primary axis and context of Anzac Parade and the Parade Ground.
- Retains and protects the key landscape setting of the Memorial and its visual dominance and symmetry along Anzac Parade to Parliament House. Contextually, the Australian War Memorial sits on one of three key radials of the great Griffin Plan, connecting Capital Hill with Mount Ainslie. It is in keeping with this symmetry that the New Southern Entrance and Anzac Hall is located.
Item 2: The need for the work.
Having now worked on the project for the last 12 months; our team has had the opportunity to become deeply involved and cognisant of the Memorials needs through a detailed understanding of not only the Memorial and its’ function; but also through the feedback and experience that the User Groups apply to the design process.
Throughout the design process, the design teams have had the opportunity to engage with a range of User Groups within the Memorial. These groups represent the functional requirements of the Memorial and those that visit. It is through regular and detailed engagement with the User Groups that has allowed the design teams to understand more around:
- How the current spatial constraints limit the stories of recent conflicts and operations, to a level commensurate with earlier conflicts.
- The need to recognise not only recent conflicts, but also peacekeeping and humanitarian operations;
- The lack of capacity in the memorial to include large technical objects that form an important part of the storytelling of the operations; and in fact, as physical objects provide emotive connection for those who served in those operations.
- Current limitations around the management of visitors regarding not only the quantum of visitors; but also, their arrival journey, security and screening; and orientation for some 1 million visitors per annum. These limitations are only natural in a building that must adapt and support the unfortunate growth in conflicts and missions; but also adapt to a changing context that could not have been envisaged when the original building was designed. As a National institution, it is a responsibility to ensure the visitor journey is equitable, safe and secure in our contemporary world context.
- Current limitations around universal accessibility. The existing building was designed at a time where the concept of universal access for all, did not exist. The existing entrance and many parts of the existing building do not have equitable and dignified accessible connections for those with varying levels of physical capacities. This is considered unacceptable, considering the Memorial is a place for all Australians and by its’ very function will have those visiting with accessibility challenges, from those injured in missions, to the elderly remembering their friends and loved ones.
Memorials are important because they act as historical touchstones. They link the past to the present and enable people to remember and respect the sacrifice of those who died, fought, participated or were affected by conflicts. Ensuring the Memorial is relevant to all, is in our view a key responsibility of the Memorial.
Adapting to current requirements and resolving the current constraints, will ensure the building and its’ content is cared for by future generations. We consider this to be both in the national interest and in support of the primary purpose of the Memorial.
Item 3: The cost effectiveness of the proposal.
Whilst we cannot comment on the project’s cost effectiveness compared to other government expenditure, we can confirm that value for money and budget control has been a key aspect of the design development process.
As a design team we received prior to the design competition a project budget for the New Southern Entrance. This has been carefully monitored and assessed through out the design process.
Through regular cost planning and value management assessments with the Memorial and the project Cost Planner, the project has included milestone hold points to ensure the project budgets and value for money is continually assessed and reported on.
Finally, as members of the public, it is challenging to imagine why a building that is nearing 100 years old and an institution that needs to tell the stories of those who have served in contemporary conflicts and humanitarian missions, does not warrant investment in the future.
Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Published Objections.
Scott Carver is a member organisation of the Australian Institute of Architects; as are the other design organisations involved in the Memorial projects. All individuals who have counter signed this letter are involved in the project and are registered with our respective state chapters of the AIA.
We are aware that the AIA has published objections to the work at the Australian War Memorial. Whilst we respect that some members of the AIA do object to the proposed works and process undertaken by the Memorial, we wish to point out that this objection does not reflect the membership as a whole in our opinion. The published objections did not seek a vote or agreement from the broader membership of the AIA.
The core responsibility of the AIA is to represent the membership and the advancement of architecture. In the case of the published Memorial objection, the AIA has committed members funds to the commissioning of a Heritage Report that has a relatively one-sided view of the project/s; without seeking the alternate view; and to the best of our knowledge, without testing with the broader membership, as to whether it was an appropriate commitment of member funds.
In forming a view and publicly announcing their position, the AIA has not sought the broader opinions of the profession in our view; or recognised that in response to the Memorials EOI, a large quantum of Member organisations, including some of the country’s pre-eminent design practices, responded and sought involvement in the projects at the outset.
Whilst the AIA has not commented on the particular aspects of the design scheme, the Heritage report commissioned by the AIA does make comment on the design proposals undertaken by member organisations of the AIA. These comments have effectively been endorsed through publicly advertising the report and the campaign under the ‘Policy and Advocacy’ page of the AIA website. Whilst it is true that a number of Architects have supported the ‘Save Anzac Hall’ campaign; we note that at time of this letter, there are some 1,270 signatures on the AIA website supporting their objection to the Memorials process. However, with some 11,500 registered Architects in Australia, it is fair and reasonable to surmise that the objection to the project and the process is not the view of a majority of the profession.
In summary, The Australian War Memorial is an enduring, culturally significant symbol of remembrance that commemorates those that gave their lives for our nation. It is a physical representation of pride, honour, courage and sacrifice. It is all our history living through the memory of the stories; of those both past and present.
It is these stories that the design work seeks to support by providing a place for our young to understand the sacrifices that built our nation. A place for local and foreign visitors to learn about our nation’s strength and resolve. A place for the families of the lost to honour their loved ones. A place for the families of current service men and women to be proud of; and a place for all Australians to reflect on the heroes of this country.
We kindly request the EPBC consider the above in their assessment of the Memorial’s proposal. Whilst we of course have a declared interest in the project, we do consider in our professional opinion that:
- The work proposed is reflective of the core values and principals of the Memorial and the stated purpose of the Memorial. The design process undertaken has sought through a competitive environment, design work that is dignified in its’ response to the existing building fabric.
- The work is needed to ensure the Memorial remains relevant for future generations and to support our past and present service men and women who have served Australia.
- The design solutions are cost effective and responsive to the Memorial needs.
- The design solutions respect and reflect the fundamental heritage values of the project.