Society’s attitudes to commemoration have transformed in the 100 years since the First World War. Robert Nelson, in an opinion piece to the Sydney Morning Herald, sums it up with three sentences:

“Anzac Day is both sincere and confused. It’s the national day of ambivalence, where even patriots deplore the catastrophe of war. The date marks an invasion with which few Australians identify; and yet we still feel a need to honour the people who served.”

Under these conditions, designing spaces that serve to honour, remember and teach can be a challenge. We look at five projects from the past and present, built and unbuilt, which strive to capture the spirit of Anzac, and continue the narratives that remain relevant to our national identity.

‘Australia in the Great War’, Australian War Memorial by Cunningham Martyn Design

A new permanent exhibition that opened to the public in December 2014, ‘Australia in the Great War’ is the first major refurbishment to the First World War Galleries at the Australian War Memorial in over 40 years. According to the design team, the re-development had to retain and restore the heritage values and character of the building, yet present the story of the First World War with “veracity, depth and relevance to Australians today”.

Integrating 140 points of sophisticated technology and multi-media, the exhibition presents iconic collection items that were conserved and shown in optimal viewing and lighting conditions, while major design interventions such as the diorama facades and central showcases support and enhance the narrative.

Galleries contained within existing building structure, majority within the original 1940s envelope. Materials were chosen for minimum toxicity and off-gassing, and were generally locally sourced. The lighting system is entirely LED to minimise heat, power consumption and the need for lamp changeovers. Photography by John Gollings

The expected life of the new galleries is 25 years – a long timeframe for an exhibition installation. It is also expected that future renewals will be motivated by shifts in cultural attitudes rather than a necessary replacement of the built fabric.

Shrine of Remembrance Visitors Centre by ARM Architecture

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne is Victoria’s largest and most visited war memorial. Built between 1928 and 1934, it remembers the 114,000 men and women of Victoria who served and those who died in the Great War.

Designed by architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, both World War I veterans who won a design competition, the building’s outline is inspired by the mausoleum at Harlicarnassus to Mausolus, King of Caria in South West Asia Minor. Since its opening, other built features and memorials have been added to the site, including the Second World War Forecourt and the Remembrance Garden.

The Visitors Centre, which was completed in 2003 and improved public access to the Shrine as well as introduced reception, orientation and educational facilities, is one of the notable additions to the Shrine of Remembrance. Taking home the John George Knight Heritage Award and the 2004 Victorian Architectural Medal, its success is perhaps best described by its architects:

“From the outset we decided that if we were to attempt anything brave, then it would have to be something very clever too. If we were to attempt anything courageous, then it would have to be camouflaged by a sparkling humility. If we were to attempt anything spectacular, then it would need to be the spectacle of new generations learning the longing for peace.”

Sitting in an under croft beneath the Shrine, the centre’s entrance features a red abstract patterning based on the red poppy, which was the first flower to grow in Northern France after the First World War ended. In the entrance courtyard, ‘Lest we forget’ is etched into one wall, facing a quote from Sir William Deane’s speech made on Anzac Day 1999 on the opposite surface.

Here, the walls are an ochre colour reminiscent of the soil found in central Australia, and take inspiration from the sharp edges of the slit trenches that were excavated during the Second World War in the Shrine Reserve. Photography by John Gollings. Source: SMH, Shrine

Newcastle Memorial Walk by EJE Architecture

A brand new, 450 metre raised ‘Memorial Walk’ has opened in Newcastle, NSW to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. Connecting Strzelecki Lookout to Sheppard’s Hill Reservoir at Bar Beach, the steel-framed bridge serves not just as a site of remembrance, but also a pedestrian link for the Newcastle coastline.







Picture: Dean Osland. Source: Herald Sun

Laid with composite fibre decking and featuring sinusoid stainless steel balustrades that rise up and down along its length, the bridge has silhouettes of Anzac diggers that bear the family names of 3,860 soldiers.

(un) Common Earth_National World War I & World War II Memorial, Canberra by Mulloway Studio

The project was one of 11 unrealised Australian architectural projects featured at Australia’s 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition, Augmented Australia 1914-2014. (un) Common Earth is the name of separate but complementary memorials proposed to be sited along the land axis in Canberra, and constructed from soil collected from around Australia. This soil forms the core of the architectural mass and expression, and is hallowed out to offer different perspectives in the contemplation of loss and sacrifice.

The memorials rise above the surface and push down into the soil to create gaps in the earth, reflecting the collective weight of loss and absence.

Developed in collaboration with Paul Kloeden and Peter Tonkin Design, both masses are punctured with a series of light transmitting fibre-optic cables, each light point representing 100 war lives and deaths. Externally, the lighting strategy provides contrasting urban characters; a long-distance visual solidity during the day and lantern-like image at night. Internally, the architectural expression creates an emotive internal spatial experience of the differences between the two wars.

Anzac Hall by Denton Corker Marshall

The Anzac Hall extension to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra was completed in 2001 and saw three new buildings wrapped around the back of the existing Memorial, each designed to sit in its shadow, with intentional “deference to this significant cultural landmark”.

Featuring a long concrete wall that tapers to a thin edge, the fan-shaped Anzac Hall is covered by a thin curving roof clad in Lyasaght Klip-Lok in a cliff grey, which was specially created for the project so it would blend in the existing Memorial building and its copper-sheathed dome.

The roof cantilevers over the main volume like the wing of a military aircraft, and Anzac Hall is connected to the original building by a glass and steel bridge, which leads visitors to a mezzanine level that opens up views to the large exhibition floor below. This 3,000sqm space showcases the Memorial’s collection of large technology items, including a midget submarine.

"Once inside, Anzac Hall is arresting, seductive, unforgettable. A moving counterpoint to all the braid and ballyhoo,” architecture critic Elizabeth Farrelly wrote in 2001 for the Sydney Morning Herald. “Where the sacred court is white, hard-edged and linear, Anzac Hall is velvet black. Where the court is pristine and abstract with celestial connotations, the hall is real with blood, fear and torn flesh.”

Photography by John Gollings. Source: ArchDaily.