The Federal Government has announced $498 million in funding for an expansion of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
To be undertaken over nine years, the expansion would include a “complete redesign” of the lower ground floor and a new underground exhibition hall. Anzac Hall at the rear of the site would be demolished and rebuilt as part of the expansion.
Dr Brendan Nelson, director of the Memorial, said the expansion would enable the institution to tell the stories of what has been done in recent years – for example, Australia’s presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Solomon Islands and East Timor – now, instead of “years or decades after they’ve occurred”.
“To make this happen, the Memorial has developed a detailed proposal to the Australian Federal Government to fund a major redevelopment of the Memorial’s galleries and precinct to create a vision that will guide us for the next 50 years,” Dr Nelson said in a statement.
ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja said the War Memorial is a major contributor to the ACT economy.
“In 2017, the Memorial welcomed 1.1 million visitors from across the country and overseas, and had 45,000 people in attendance over the two Anzac Day services. This huge expansion will attract many more visitors to Canberra,” he said.
While the plans have bipartisan support across the lake, the Australian Institute of Architects has slammed the planned demolition of Anzac Hall as “shocking” and “distressing”.
The Institute’s national president Clare Cousins said while supporting moves to honour Australia’s servicemen and women, the Institute is “shocked” at the lack of consultation around the demolition of the 17-year-old building currently used to showcase larger objects such as aircraft.
“Anzac Hall was designed with such care and sensitivity to the highest standards of design excellence, an effort recognised when it was selected above any other piece of public architecture to receive the Sir Zelman Cowen Award.”
Ms Cousins said the lack of regard for the building is “incomprehensible”, naming Anzac Hall as a “national landmark” and “much loved exhibition space”.
Dr Nelson said the original, iconic façade of the building will remain unchanged, preserving Canberra’s iconic vista of Anzac Parade up to Parliament House.
In announcing the funding, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the redevelopment would increase visitor areas at the War Memorial by 83%, and allow for more of the collection to be seen. The expansion will also include a new temporary exhibition space, areas for respite and reflection, new education facilities, and a theatre and functions space.