War Memorial plans fail to win over opponents

Artist impression of the War Memorial expansion at the back - minus Anzac Hall.
Artist impression of the War Memorial expansion at the back - minus Anzac Hall.

Canberra's architects haven't given up on saving an acclaimed part of the existing Australian War Memorial despite the publication of plans which involve its demolition.

The Anzac Hall is a low, curved steel building at the back of the memorial.

When it was completed in 2009, it was praised as modern yet completely in tune with the original iconic structure.

Under the vision of the new, expanded memorial, it will be replaced by a much bigger building.

"Until the bulldozers arrive, it remains there and we would argue that it should stay there," said Philip Leeson, the president of the ACT chapter of the Architects Institute of Australia.

Elaine and Max Yeend at the special exhibition showing the plans for the extension. Picture: Steve Evans

Elaine and Max Yeend at the special exhibition showing the plans for the extension. Picture: Steve Evans

"It was a beautiful piece of work, a sensitive addition to the original war memorial."

He and his fellow architects' "implacable opposition to the demolition" came as the memorial unveiled artist impressions and a video of what the redeveloped site will look like - minus the existing Anzac Hall.

At a special exhibition on the site, visitors were broadly impressed with the plan - though some wondered if the ultra-modern glass-covered walkways clashed with the original building.

Max and Elaine Yeend from Perth both thought the extension was necessary because there were so many objects which couldn't be shown because of the lack of space.

But did they feel that the modern section in the planned expansion jarred with the existing part?

"I wouldn't say it jars," he said, "but it's not in keeping with the solemnity of the place."

"It if becomes too brassy and clangy, that will detract from the memorial," Mr Yeend said.

His wife said that there had to be a balance between the modernity needed to attract younger visitors and keeping to tradition.

The plans are yet to be approved by the federal government's planning departments - though few expect them to be blocked.

One of the opponents of the redevelopment, David Stephens, who edits the Honest History website thought the approval process was "vague".

He wondered if the plan to demolish Anzac Hall would go through.