The Anzac Memorial has quietly graced Sydney’s Hyde Park for over eight decades with great dignity and simplicity as the principal memorial in New South Wales to all who have served the nation. It is both a public and a private place of contemplation, remembrance and ceremony.
The Memorial is one of Australia’s finest and most distinctive Art Deco structures, a building both of its time and timeless, and one that is both grand and yet intimate. It fuses the architecture of Bruce Dellit and the art of Rayner Hoff into a powerful symbol of courage, endurance and sacrifice, rendering acutely legible the very purpose of the building.
The building is sited in a traditional gathering place for the Eora People and in Sydney’s oldest urban park. It is centred upon Sydney’s grand Beaux-Arts axis that stretches from the harbour and the Opera House along Macquarie Street and Hyde Park’s central promenade, terminating in the classic ensemble of the Pool of Reflection, encircling pathways, planting and stepped pavilion of the Memorial itself.
At the core of this important civic structure is the Hall of Memory, a grand urban domed room, open to the north and south, at once monumental and intimate and possessing great intricacy yet overall simplicity. This room is both remote and connected to the city and its the sounds; the changing light, the landscape and seasonal weather are an integral part of the experience of this unique place.
The conceptual challenge for the centenary project was to complete Dellit’s original vision by extending the central axis with four great water plateaux cascading towards Liverpool Street in the south, to provide much needed exhibition and education space and to refurbish the ground and basement levels of the heritage building. It was imperative that the solution should add to, rather than detract from, the historic and cultural significance of the original composition.
The architectural solution drew inspiration from the spirit of the original structure and the landscape setting, its classical composition, proportions, materiality and the fusion of the architecture of space, structure and material with the symbolism of contemporary art, to create an addition that would be an unequivocal statement of its time, place and new functions, respecting and bringing forward the traditions of the original building.
The water plateaux in the south balance the Pool of Reflection to the north, as originally conceived, and provide a grand southern setting for the Memorial; a new south entrance with equitable access from Liverpool Street and the park cuts through the Cascade, reinforcing the axial composition and providing access to the new underground facilities. The enveloping sounds of the cascading water serve to mask the traffic and prepare the visitor for entry into the Centenary addition and the historic Memorial beyond.
The architectural composition, the clear hierarchy of space, the structure and carefully selected material palette create a contemporary expression of the original composition. The new structure is crafted and finished consistent with the Dellit belief that “truth is beauty”. Precast concrete, stone, glass, timber and bronze are expressed honestly and with considered and detailed directness and simplicity.
At the core of the new facilities is a carefully proportioned outdoor court, crowned with an open oculus, directly referencing the Well of Contemplation in the existing Hall of Memory. This space is a welcoming orientation foyer and a venue for ceremonies and functions; it also provides access to flexible exhibition galleries and education facilities.
This new urban room is connected axially via stairs and inclined lifts to the Hall of Silence and to the Rayner Hoff sculpture Sacrifice and, through the Oculus, is visually connected to the southern façade of the Hall of Memory. It is an enriched space and its very purpose is intensified by the sights, sounds, light and landscape of the precinct and the city; it was inspired by the same potent qualities to be found in the existing Hall of Memory.
The architectural form and symbolic purpose of the space is reinforced and made powerfully legible by a public artwork created by Fiona Hall integrated into the very walls and floor of the court that is inspired by, and intended to honour, more than a century of military service and sacrifice. This work is a worthy contemporary companion to Hoff’s Sacrifice. The space is appropriately ennobled with the title “Hall of Service”.
Building services are integrated with the architecture, thereby providing resource efficiency, reduced running costs and flexibility to suit a variety of environmental and functional demands.
The encircling landscape including the successful relocation of a mature ficus hillii is consistent with the original landscape vision and vistas and with the City’s PoM for Hyde Park.
The Centenary Project completes and empowers the original Bruce Dellit composition, giving it increased presence in Hyde Park and a greater connection to the city. The project provides a new symbolic space, the Hall of Service, physically and spiritually connected to the existing Hall of Memory, and delivers a symbolic fusion of architecture and art. It provides much-needed new facilities which reinforce the original intent of the Anzac Memorial, giving it increased meaning and even greater contemporary relevance.
Professor Richard A. Johnson AO MBE