War Memorial excavation and demolition get the green light

The Australian War Memorial has been given the green light for the first part of its $500 million redevelopment, gaining approval for early works including demolishing the award-winning Anzac Hall.

The go-ahead from the National Capital Authority will also allow the AWM to excavate the parade ground in front of its main entrance, chop down 140 trees and erect fences around much of its site.

Many of the exhibitions and artefacts have already been removed from Anzac Hall, which closed to the public at the end of March.

The NCA received a record 601 submissions about the application. Three were in favour of the project while the rest opposed it or raised concerns.

The only condition it has placed on the early works approval is that the AWM plant at least 250 native trees to replace the 140 to be removed during the works. Full details of these plantings will be included in a landscape plan it must submit in 2022.

“With this change noted, the NCA has concluded the proposal is not inconsistent with the National Capital Plan and the works have been approved,” chair Terry Weber said in a statement on Monday.



This is one of the final approvals the mammoth redevelopment project requires.

The NCA is yet to decide on the substantive project, although it has already been approved by the federal Environment Department and Parliament’s public works committee.

The demolition of Anzac Hall attracted much criticism, including from architects, as the existing building is just 20 years old and has won two architectural awards.

The NCA says its demolition “was not considered to have an unacceptable impact on heritage values of the AWM” and the replacement building “has been designed by a highly regarded Australian architectural practice with a reputation for design excellence in public buildings”.

Other opponents of the redevelopment criticised the fact the “early works” included significant and irreversible changes that appeared to make the final approval all but inevitable.

In response, the NCA said it had been “actively reviewing the evolution of the larger design and providing critique and direction” to the AWM as it developed its plans.

“This engagement has provided the NCA sufficient confidence regarding the overall character of the major redevelopment works to enable approval of the early works package,” it said.

The nine-year redevelopment will increase the gallery space in the memorial and move administrative and research offices out of the main building. During the works, national commemorative services will be held at the side of the building.

The AWM and supporters of the redevelopment say it’s necessary to give the institution more space to tell the stories of all Australians who have served, particularly in modern conflicts, and to improve access and circulation through the building.

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