Australian War Memorial to detail major $500m redevelopment
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Australian War Memorial to detail major $500m redevelopment

The redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial to be unveiled on Thursday will include demolishing and rebuilding Anzac Hall, the memorial's director Brendan Nelson has confirmed.

Visitors to the Australian War Memorial will be able to watch soldiers at work in real time, as part of a half-a-billion-dollar redevelopment of the Canberra institution.

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

Dr Nelson will on Thursday outline plans to significantly expand its exhibition and public space.

The ambitious project will cost $498 million and be completed in discrete stages over nine years.

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The plans are expected to include a complete redesign of the memorial's lower ground floor and a new underground exhibition hall to display large items such as helicopters and jet fighters.

The redevelopment will include a live feed of current defence activities, an area for quiet reflection and a display of the nation's cenotaphs and memorial.

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

In July The Canberra Times revealed details of the draft plan, which show the expansion would cater for more visitors and make the memorial relevant to future generations.

Talking to ABC Canberra on Thursday morning, Dr Nelson said Anzac Hall would be rebuilt to include two levels.

"By the time it goes down we will have had 19 wonderful years out of it. We are going to rebuild Anzac Hall, deeper, wider. It will be on two levels. Everything that’s in there now will be replicated on one level and the modern operations ... will be done on another level."

"We are then going to build an atrium, like the British Museum between the new Anzac Hall and the back of the existing memorial. That will enclose the HMAS Brisbane bridge, we’ll be able to put large objects in there to tell the stories of the men and women who used and supported those. We’ll have a coffee shop area in there," Dr Nelson said.

"We'll build a new building behind Poppies [cafe] and take all the back-end operations out of the memorial proper to redevelop them for exhibition space and a new exhibition hall will go underground at the front, with an underground entrance from the underground carpark and two discreet pedestrian entrances east and west and new parking out the back."

Dr Nelson said the National Capital Authority was comfortable with the design proposed.

The original architects of Anzac Hall had written to the memorial and asked for alternatives to demolition to be considered, as the hall was built in 2001 at a cost of $17 million, Fairfax Media reported this week. On ABC Canberra on Thursday Dr Nelson said the cost of the original hall was $14 million.

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Former principal historian at the war memorial Professor Peter Stanley said the suggestion that Anzac Hall would be demolished was a scandalous waste of money.

"It is only 17 years old and is perfectly fit-for-purpose," Professor Stanley said.

"I do think that the proposed redevelopment is unjustified, especially given the money spent on the memorial during the Great War centenary and the poverty inflicted on comparable national cultural institutions."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the redevelopment initiative is about "the practical recognition and support our service men and women deserve".

"We're going to make the Australian War Memorial's vision a reality so they can tell new stories in new ways," he said in a statement.

"As well as being able to display more of their collection, we want the Australian War Memorial to be able to proudly tell the stories from recent years in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Solomon Islands and East Timor."

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

Artist impressions of the planned redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

Dr Nelson said the revamped memorial would more substantially tell the stories of current conflicts, operations, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions and those over the past 40 years.

The range and duration of contemporary conflicts is said to have stretched the memorial's current gallery space. However the expansion will increase visitor areas by more than 80 per cent.

With AAP

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.

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