Gardens of Remembrance

Providing a place for quiet contemplation and to review a directory of commemorative plaques, this pavilion forms part of the newly opened Australian Capital Territory Garden of Remembrance for the Office of Australian War Graves within the Woden Cemetery. It is the result of a fruitful collaboration between landscape architects Redbox Design, artist Mathew Harding, & Philip Leeson Architects.

Massive, monolithic & alien, the pavilion symbolizes the incongruity of a war time bunker in a pristine landscape. The adjacent white marble skimming stones appear to have been carved out of the blocklike form of dark grey bush hammered concrete, leaving behind the calm white interior space. Together with a tiled mosaic on which the stones rest, the surrounding arrangement of pathways, trees and memorial walls represents the “ripples’ of the pavilion’s impact in the space.

The pavilion exhibits a high standard of architectural detailing and meticulous craftsmanship. The floor, walls and roof are constructed in reinforced mass concrete. The complex shape and precise finishes required that the formwork be erected with extreme skill and care – a process which took several weeks.

The outer wall faces are built with concrete pre-coloured with a dark charcoal pigment. They have a bush hammered surface with a smooth off-form border crisply defining the edges of each plane. The contrasting interior walls and raking soffit are finished in a fine render of sand cement and white marble dust. The seat and niche panels are built from laminations of stainless steel flats and square sections of jarrah bolted together and anchored to the walls with the seat seeming to emerge from the wall itself. An etched glass panel containing the Australian coat of arms and a brief dedication is set into the back of the niche.

Acting as the focus of a broader composition the pavilion is at once immovable and alien and  yet light and ethereal. On approach the structure presents the solid, forbidding form of a wartime bunker founded immovably in a soft and verdant landscape. Passing through a low portal one enters a crisp white space with a tapered ceiling that seems to have been carved out of the rough hewn block with a surface so smooth it does appear man made. The overall effect is of purity, serenity and produces a sense of lightness which lifts the gaze upward and out to trees and sky.

Builder: Manteena
Photography: Ben Wrigley

Art in Architecture Award, ACT AIA Awards, 2006