An artist’s impression of the proposed $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial. Picture: Gary Ramage
An artist’s impression of the proposed $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial. Picture: Gary Ramage

Shock discovery during War Memorial revamp

DEPRESSION-era cost savings in the construction of the Australian War Memorial in the 1930s could hamper its 21st century makeover with sections of the heritage building found to be propped up by sticks and stones.

Surveyors will soon begin work on the $500 million makeover of the beloved Canberra institution to increase the capacity for a range of contemporary permanent exhibitions related to our military missions in the Middle East and regionally.

As announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and supported by Labor leader Bill Shorten, the redevelopment will include spectacular glass atriums to house forecourts and preserve military hardware and a new ANZAC Hall.

 

But architectural notes from a recent modest makeover reveal structural weaknesses from labour and materials shortcuts made when the building was erected during the Great Depression.

It was this limitation that in part influenced the need for a new solid structure at the rear of the iconic dome-topped building.

AWM director Dr Brendan Nelson agreed new plans had taken this into consideration the "austerity" standards 90 years ago.

 

The Australian War Memorial was opened in Canberra in 1941.
The Australian War Memorial was opened in Canberra in 1941.

 

"We can't put heavy stuff in the memorial unless it is on the ground floor because the building was built on the cheap built through the Great Depression," he told News Corp Australia.

"So what we are going to do is reinforce these areas underneath so we can display heavy stuff like a tank in certain areas on the ground floor, as opposed to the lower floor.

"When we did the First World War galleries with that redevelopment in the heart of the original building and I kid you not things were being propped up with bricks and sticks and once the sandstone came away we realised it was relatively thin and very cheap building materials used behind it, very little reinforcement so in that gallery will be brought up to modern standard. We got a sense of what we are looking for."

 

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson inspects plans and artists' impressions of the proposed $500 million redevelopment. Picture: Gary Ramage
Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson inspects plans and artists' impressions of the proposed $500 million redevelopment. Picture: Gary Ramage

 

Meanwhile, The Australian Institute of Architects has launched a campaign to block the "deeply depressing" and disrespectful demolition and rebuilding of the ANZAC Hall annex at the rear of the memorial on the grounds it would be only 20 years old at the demolition time at the end of 2020. The Institute has been joined by the architects of the hall Denton Corker Marshall.