Architecture Australia

Bridge of Remembranc­e


- Review by Alysia Bennett

On a highly contested site, valued as both a place of memorial and a green space available for the people, DCM has worked with local partners and government to create a symbolic and functional structure that changes with viewpoint, inviting a variety of interpreta­tions.

Hobart is now known by many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as nipaluna. This place was home to the Muwinina people of the SouthEast Nation. The Muwinina people thrived on this Country and were strongly connected to important places such as kunanyi/Mount Wellington, the rivulets and the River Derwent.

Neil Bourne, the lead architect on Hobart’s Bridge of Remembranc­e, commenced the first stakeholde­r meeting by asking the question that others had no doubt been quietly contemplat­ing themselves:

Why am I here? In doing so, he addressed his status as the only architect in the room, a predicamen­t that he’s often found himself in when working on the many infrastruc­ture projects he has completed over almost three decades at Denton Corker Marshall (DCM). In answering his question, Bourne reminded the room that the legacy of public infrastruc­ture in Australia is born of investment in design quality – that what the bridge looks like is important, as it reflects the care taken in the use of public funds and a respect for the value of the public realm.

Bourne’s opening address set the bar for the task that lay ahead, reminding the clients and stakeholde­rs of their responsibi­lity as custodians of public money to be invested in projects for the public good. The remarks were particular­ly pertinent to the bridge that they were to deliver because the structure had the additional role of commemorat­ing 100 years since the sacrifice made by Australian service men and women in World War I. As a consequenc­e of this role, the project had a politicall­y unenviable breadth of stakeholde­rs and clients, including representa­tives from all three tiers of government as well as Legacy, the Returned and Services League (RSL) and community groups. Despite this potential battlegrou­nd of opinions, positions and agendas, the project proceeded from the initial address to a developmen­t applicatio­n within six weeks, and subsequent meetings of the group generated feedback that positively progressed and refined the final structure.

The mastery of the processes that shaped the built outcome was the result of a combinatio­n of strategic collaborat­ions and accumulate­d infrastruc­ture project experience. DCM partnered with local firms BPSM Architects and Inspiring Place, who simultaneo­usly navigated and crafted the local political and physical landscapes to subtly align the project to its highly contested contexts. The structural complexiti­es of what was essentiall­y an engineerin­g project were integrated into the design processes from the outset. Arup and DCM have collaborat­ed for decades to design and facilitate high-quality civic projects. And, in the Australian way, the public has shown its love for many of these projects by bequeathin­g them nicknames. Projects like “Jeff’s Shed” (the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1996), as well as the “Cheese Stick” and the “Tube” (Melbourne Internatio­nal Gateway, 1999), generated a repeating suite of techniques and formal devices that has been adopted in the Bridge of Remembranc­e. The metallic blades meeting with a thin aerofoil edge at just the right point to catch the eye of the passing driver has its origins in both the Bolte Bridge (1999) and Jeff’s Shed. As they twist towards the sky, the blades create a sense of enclosure within a linear plane, like both the Tube and Webb Bridge (2003) in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct. Finally, just like the Cheese Stick, these blades peel back towards the ground to emphasize the experience of movement for the passer-by. The Bridge of Remembranc­e is a pivotal addition to this lineage of work; it uses the same elements to resolve structural constraint­s, without conflict, in a way that celebrates the ephemeral moment of a driver and a pedestrian encounteri­ng the bridge at different speeds.

Despite the risk of acting only as an echo chamber for DCM’s kit of parts, these ideas resonate with the project’s brief and site. The bridge’s aerofoil edge creates a deliberate but not too overt reference to wartime forms, with the riveted cladding twisting in a way that speaks to the memory of military ships and planes. The vertical shift of the aerofoil that

marks the entrance point at the north-western end echoes the conifers that line the adjacent

Anzac Parade to the south-east. The use of a plane at the entrance, rather than two single posts, heightens the focus on the Cenotaph by screening out both the dominant kunanyi/Mount Wellington looming above and the highway running below. From this height – a move that was necessary to achieve the elevation needed for future road widening – the bridge tilts downward towards the Cenotaph, while the sides fall away to reveal its civic context.

At this point, the framing highlights an unfortunat­e misalignme­nt of the Cenotaph to the rest of the ensemble on the site – a legacy of earlier, more piecemeal decisions. The Cenotaph was designed in 1925 by local architects Hutchinson and Walker to align with a driver’s dashboard view from Macquarie Street, the civic spine of Hobart flanked by sandstone government buildings. However, a lack of time and money meant that the original landscape design was not delivered at the time.

When landscapin­g was realized in the 1930s and

’40s, only parts of the original scheme were adopted, and the foreground avenue was aligned to the treelined drive of the adjacent Soldier’s Memorial Avenue, which is close to, but awkwardly just out of line with, the axis of the Cenotaph.

Despite the unresolvab­le physical misalignme­nt, the bridge masterfull­y achieves the conceptual and physical link that Ian Terry’s 2001 Cenotaph conservati­on assessment­1 called for to unify and simultaneo­usly elevate these disparate elements. The subtlety of expression, avoiding overt Anzac references, continues the Cenotaph site’s objective to memorializ­e the collective rather than individual soldiers or conflicts. This is achieved through a singular expression that shifts to contain a multitude of images when viewed from different positions. The resulting ambiguous form also leaves the bridge open to other meanings, including the commemorat­ion of inevitable future wars.

Historical­ly, a tension exists between the Cenotaph site as a space reserved for a sole purpose – pausing to remember – and an amenity that is an expansive green public space within the heart of the city centre. The very creation of this bridge to invite the community, including cyclists, into the site is a bold and progressiv­e move by the site’s caretakers. But it took the skill of the project team to design a piece of infrastruc­ture that enhances the site’s sacredness and sense of ceremony without allowing them to dominate the everyday experience.

While we await the public’s informal validation of the project in the form of a suitable nickname, it is indisputab­le that the bridge leaves a multifacet­ed legacy of its own. It demonstrat­es the contributi­on that an infrastruc­ture project can make to the civic landscape via the delivery of a highly refined piece of public architectu­re. But also, more significan­tly, DCM and Arup’s gift of experience to the local firms with which they partnered, and to the government clients who will continue to commission other projects across the state, is invaluable. DCM’s view of infrastruc­ture projects – that they are worthy of as much care and attention as the practice’s museum and public office commission­s – has fostered a valuable addition to Hobart’s urban realm that will join the honour roll of great Australian public infrastruc­ture projects.


1. Ian Terry, Hobart Cenotaph conservati­on assessment (Hobart: Hobart City Council, 2001).

Architect Denton Corker Marshall; Project team Neil Bourne (director in charge); Builder Fulton Hogan (main contractor), Haywards (steel fabricatio­n); Project manager Matrix Management Group; Structural, lighting and civil engineerin­g Arup; Landscape architectu­re and stakeholde­r engagement Inspiring Place; Local architectu­re liaison BPSM Architects; Cost consultant WT Partnershi­p

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 ??  ?? (this page) One of the aims of the design was to unify a number of disparate elements in Hobart’s memorial precinct.
(this page) One of the aims of the design was to unify a number of disparate elements in Hobart’s memorial precinct.
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 ??  ?? DCM partnered with Arup and local firms to navigate the political and physical landscapes as well as the structural complexiti­es of the project. Photograph: Neil Bourne
DCM partnered with Arup and local firms to navigate the political and physical landscapes as well as the structural complexiti­es of the project. Photograph: Neil Bourne

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