No turning back for Australian War Memorial redevelopment, with contracts signed and ground broken

Home Politics No turning back for Australian War Memorial redevelopment, with contracts signed and ground broken
No turning back for Australian War Memorial redevelopment, with contracts signed and ground broken

The Australian War Memorial’s $500 million redesign has been confirmed in ink, with the signing of the final contract for the controversial project.

The last of the three contracts for the development was signed this week, with much of the work on the site already underway.

Planned works include a new entrance, a refurbishment of the main building, the demolition and redesign of Anzac Hall and an extension to the Bean Building.

“We are on a deadline. We have got to get this all done by 2028,” War Memorial director Matt Anderson said.

A visualisation of a building's roof.
The dome at the top of the building will be visible through the roof.(Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

With the final hurdle now cleared, the memorial has also revealed more information about the design of the redevelopment.

Mr Anderson said the roof in the new Anzac Hall would be inspired by the Australian rising sun badge.

And he said an important new feature was a round-windowed roof at the southern entry, designed to be an inversion of the dome atop the memorial.

“[Visitors] will be able to walk in, look up and see the dome from inside the building,” Mr Anderson said.

“That is the first time in the memorial’s history that you will be able to have that vantage.”

First stage set to open to the public by end of 2024

A man in a hard hat smiles.
Australian War Memorial director Matt Anderson says the building will reopen to the public as the developments are completed.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

The southern entrance will become the new entry way to the memorial for visitors, and Mr Anderson says there will be an emphasis on accessibility.

Unlike the current entry way, visitors using wheelchairs, walkers, prams or with other mobility issues no longer have to catch a separate lift to access the memorial.

Mr Anderson said the construction work in different areas of the memorial was also being carried out simultaneously, to ensure the 2028 deadline is met, but the building will reopen in stages.

“The Bean building, research centre and research energy plant will be completed by 2024,” Mr Anderson said.

A construction site with a large building behind it.
Ground has been broken on the site, but details such as landscaping are still open for public consultation.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

If all goes to plan, visitors will be able to enter the memorial via the main front entrance and the end of 2024.

“We are aiming to have Anzac Hall and the Glazed Link – which is very large construction, a nine-metre hold – finished by 2025,” Mr Anderson said.

While the War Memorial has all of the necessary approvals for the early and main works, the public realm works, which focus on landscaping, are still open for public consultation until next month.

Project is ‘ill-based, ill-conceived’

A man in a grey sweater.
 Dr David Stephens of the Heritage Guardians group says the development is bad value for money.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

The project has attracted significant controversy since its inception, in particular about whether the expansion was necessary and the associated costs.

It was put to public consultation in April 2021 and attracted 601 submissions – the most in the National Capital Authority’s history.

More than 18 months on, the project is assured, but historian Dr David Stephens from the Heritage Guardians group said the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“[The project] is not value for money but ill-based and ill-conceived,” Dr Stephens said.

“It is particularly not value for money when you look at how it could be spent otherwise.

“Direct benefits to veterans and families or spread $550 million over other cultural institutions.”

Aerial shot of the Australian War Memorial
The redevelopment is set to be complete in 2028.(Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

However, Mr Anderson argues that the development is an investment in the future.

“This is a once-in-a-generation investment in telling the stories of all those who have worn this nation’s uniform,” he said.

“Every cent is being spent wisely.”

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