Part D – The Park Legacy of Sir John Monash

The focus on “Design Legacy” is to highlight the void in “design” thinking and the importance of long term thinking and investment for parks. But even more so it is about leadership, insight and passion. A Story of Legacy that started with passion to pay tribute to the First World War has ended up being a modern re-interpretation regarding the spirit of mateship and the Australian Culture – The Park Legacy of Sir John Monash.

Australia has many examples to draw upon and provide “signposts” to the future regarding “Design Legacy”:

  • Centennial Parklands and the home of “federation” – a great park that was designed with a clear vision but has shown the ability to adapt and be flexible to changing needs.
  • Canberra – Walter Burley Griffin – his legacy which was a city in a landscape with exceptional use of water (artificial) and a long run vision

However The Shrine is an interesting case study of a Legacy that was clearly to service one purpose but was designed so well that it has become apart of the Australian and New Zealand culture and on one day it focuses a Nation – ANZAC Day.

The Story:

Following WW1 the Victorian Government unsuccessfully tried to design and build a war memorial. It was only Sir John Monash’s vision that resulted in the funds being raised from the community and The Shrine being built. The Story and the architectural significance are outlined below:

The Development of the Concept (Source: Shrine of Remembrance):

Consideration was given to the building of a memorial even before the war ended, with a War Memorials Committee being set up. A public meeting was held in 1921, and Victorians voted to recommend the construction of a permanent World War I memorial. This meeting was attended by people from all over Victoria. A design competition in 1922 led to the announcement of a Shrine design in December 1923, but public debate and controversy followed. Alternative ideas were put forward, including a hospital and a civic square. The Shrine proposal seemed doomed, but was saved by a dramatic address by Sir John Monash at a dinner on Anzac Day Eve, 1927.

In 1928 it was estimated that it would cost around 250,000 pounds to construct the Shrine. In the late 1920s the country was in the midst of high unemployment and financial difficulty. Amazingly the entire funding was raised within six months of the appeal launch. Public donations including those from Victorian Municipalities and State School children represented the majority of funds raised with the balance contributed by the Melbourne City Council and State Government.

Statement of Significance (Source: Australian Institute of Architects – 2012)

The Shrine of Remembrance is of significance as a large and imposing memorial building with a distinctive classically derived design which draws on symbolic Greek sources to evoke the notion of ‘the nobility of sacrifice’ in time of war, and incorporates carefully considered architectural refinements to correct optical illusions.

It is important for its prominent siting; strong axiality; the use of its surrounding parkland as a landscape of memory; the unusual emphasis placed on the interior space; the ray of light in the sanctuary and the array of major sculptural works, executed by a number of accomplished sculptors.

Design Legacy Significance:

The significance of The Shrine – the “Design Legacy” concept, is not:

  • just the architectural form and design
  • that the building has a interior (a soul as expressed by one of the original architect) and it is still being adapted and explored in a design sense today – incredible embedded capacity
  • just exceptionally placed in the landscape and surrounding parks as it forms an imposing edifice to the entrance to the City along Swanston Street

It has become a unifying cultural connection that since 1934, has enabled Australians (and New Zealanders) to explore the concept of “mateship” and thus the meaning of being Australian, and has on a given day in Melbourne connected a City through the Dawn Service to the ANZAC day game of Australian Rules Football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. How can a simple design regarding a memorial shrine lead to 80,000 Melbourians attending the Dawn Service and then later in the day at the MCG nearly 100,000 watch Essendon play Collingwood (an AFL Game) in the memory of our “mates”.

Was this envisaged by Sir John Monash in 1927 when he spiritedly argued for the Shrine of Remembrance, maybe not but we can only thank people like Sir John for his passion that has left us with a “legacy” for all and for all time.

The Design Legacy principle that is not clearly understood is the principle around culture and the interplay of space. Sir John Monash in all his public service understood who we were, are and will be.

This legend was poignantly put into words by Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia on ANZAC Day 1999:

“Anzac is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.”

The Shrine (ANZAC Day) – The People’s Park (MCG) – a football game – defining our culture: Sir John Monash’s leadership against Government wishes gave Melbournians one of the greatest landmarks that now (and it is hard to know if Sir John had this sort of insight) on one day each year defines being an Australian from the dawn service to the Australian Game at the greatest Stadium in a great parkland and city.

This is just one of many examples that could have been used to emphasis the importance of “Design Legacy” to a civil society. Classic examples are:

  • Paris – The Eiffel Tower
  • London – Hyde Park and the “Live Aid” concerts
  • Washington – Capitol Hill and the setting of democracy

The Foundational Design Legacy Principles

Building upon the above example there are a further 3 Principles that can be considered:

Principle 7: History – is the understanding of culture, history and significance of place;

Principle 8: Soul – is the creation of a “soul” in design that gives the place a sense of purpose and relevance;

Principle 9: Adaptation – is the creation of the ability of the space to adapt and change with time;


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