National Memorial Australian Capital Territory, Acton Peninsula North Canberra Property, ACT Architecture Australia
National Memorial in Acton, ACT
25 Feb 2022
Architects: SPRESSER and Peter Besley
Location: Acton Peninsula, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
images: Make Models
The Australian Government has unveiled the chosen design for the National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, to be built in the nation’s capital Canberra.
National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
The winning proposal by architects Jessica Spresser and Peter Besley comprises a series of catenary arches made of cast glass with a meandering path encircling a meadow of perennial grasses and wildflowers.
“The memorial design seeks to hold in balance an acknowledgement of strength and vitality on the one hand, and recognition of trauma and loss on the other,” said the architects. “The individual pieces of cast glass carry immense loads yet together create forms of exceptional grace and lightness, representing both fragility and great resilience.”
A national memorial for victims of child sexual abuse was one of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Memorial is dedicated to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, and was one of the recommendations of a Royal Commission. It is located next to the National Museum of Australia on Lake Burley Griffin, at the centre of Canberra. It is a permanent structure, to remain in perpetuity.
The scheme consists of a series of catenary arches made of glass blocks with a meandering path encircling a meadow of perennial grasses and wildflowers. Rather than an object-monument, the Memorial is designed as a landscape to move through as well as a composition to behold from afar.
Thematically, the design seeks to hold in balance an acknowledgement of strength and vitality on the one hand, and recognition of trauma and loss on the other. The individual pieces of cast glass carry immense loads yet together create forms of exceptional grace and lightness, representing both fragility and great resilience.
The Memorial has four main components: a raised Walking Path, a series of glass Catenary Curves, a covered Gathering Place and a Landscape Centre. The Walking Path is an irregular landscape path which leads people around the site in a continuous loop, presenting a process and capturing a landscape centre of perennial grasses and wildflowers. Along the Walking Path are positioned tall luminous freestanding Catenary Curves made of cast blocks of solid recycled glass.
Visitors pass through the curves as they progress along the Walking Path. A circular Gathering Place for events and quiet reflection is accessed directly via the Memorial entry as well as by informal pathways weaving through the Landscape Centre. The entry path aligns with the existing Axis Path to the National Museum. The canopy above the Gathering Place is made of threaded glass tubes which together form the shape of a shallow inverted dome, a counterpoint to the springing nature of the Catenary Curves.
The Memorial signifies transparency and truth. It has no hidden chambers, walls or dark corners. It is entirely permeable and accessible; the landscape passes through it. With respect to First Nations principles, the Memorial builds with and celebrates Country. One moves through and around the Memorial, having one’s own experience, not standing still before a singular object in the manner of an institutional edifice. The underlying message is one of growth and progression, not stasis or a fixed state.
“We are honoured that our scheme has been selected from such a strong field of entries. We hope that its presence will help to destigmatise child sexual abuse, as well as being a place of vitality and reflection.” – Jessica Spresser
“We want the memorial to have a haunting beauty, to give emotional force to its purpose of institutional reform.” – Peter Besley
The design is a collaboration between the architecture studios of SPRESSER and Peter Besley.
National Memorial in Australian Capital Territory, Australia – Building Information
Location: Acton Peninsula, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Client: Department of Social Services, Australian Federal Government
Announcement: Peter Besley and Jessica Spresser have won an architecture competition for a new National Memorial in Canberra, Australia.
Peter Besley – https://www.peterbesley.com/ is an architect based in Sydney, Australia. Peter has designed numerous celebrated schemes in the UK, Australia and the Middle East.
Jessica Spresser – https://www.spresser.co/ is an emerging architect based in Sydney, Australia. Her practice SPRESSER engages with built and speculative architectural work, object design and fine art.
Credits and Images: © Jessica Spresser, Peter Besley
Model and Photos: © Make Models
National Memorial, North Canberra in Australian Capital Territory images / information received 250222
Location: Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Comments for the National Memorial, Australian Capital Territory design by SPRESSER and Peter Besley page welcome
Website: Canberra, ACT