The appeal for the project for me was
not only is it something incredibly relevant to now, a century after
the First World War, but also for me the First World War was really the game
changer in Australia which brought us together as a nation, for me personally, a
lot more than the event of Federation a couple of decades previously. And it seemed very important to somehow produce something which would be
encompassing across the State because the Memorial is for New South Wales and
it is for the First World War even though of course it also honours the
other wars that Australia has participated in. I wanted to find a way to very simply make reference to that. I think the Centenary Project, in a
way, is doing a number of things. It’s completing Bruce Dellit’s vision of the
cascade to the south of the existing Memorial. It’s also providing contemporary facilities much needed for education and interpretation. And finally, also another contemporary symbolic space: The Hall of Service. It’s carrying on the
tradition of Hoff and Dellit of integrating art and architecture. We went through a process of shortlisting some of Australia’s best practitioners who might be able to bring an interpretation and the level of thinking up to this challenge, and went through a limited competition
process to select Fiona. I asked for a list of the place names and I was going to put them in the floor with soil samples and I could not believe the
length of the list when I received it. It was about 1,700 names so it’s like yikes – that’s not fitting in the floor! It will be on the walls – which from my perspective is fantastic because it gives the unremitting visual rendition of the enormity of the answer to the call of service for the First World War. It’s staggering how many people signed up from across the State because that’s something I didn’t really understand when I was a
teenager, but I do now. And so in my lifetime that’s really brought home the horrors of war but the need to respect people who’d give service, to go and
fight battles on our behalf. The soil represents our origins, our
home base, and I believe we are not just from a place in terms of what’s
on our birth certificate but we are the very make-up of that place. And so the idea of the home soil that we all come from and the foreign soil where we might die. Even for people who aren’t killed in war – if the bodies of the fallen can’t be brought back to their home base it’s
actually very, very distressing for families and communities. So that seemed to be a very important inclusion. I wanted to include the botanical
specimens which we associate with the First World War.
They’re the plants which we express emotions and memory with subsequent wars as well. It’s hard to imagine an Anzac Day or Remembrance Day without these
plants War is a dividing thing but it’s also a
uniting thing because there’s so much tragedy on every side. It becomes very
powerful because it’s like we’re all part of it. We’re all in this together.