ANZAC DAY: How good landscape design helps us interpret the meaning of memorials and war
Landscape design for Anzac Memorials in Australia is just as much about embracing the light, the freedom and the joy of life amongst the ecosystems of the Australian bush and Australian cities, as it is about stone obelisks and military orders that must be obeyed.
This is portrayed in Brisbane's foremost Anzac Memorial: Anzac Square. Here, as shown above, both a young, surviving warrior and the native Callitrus trees hold forth their arms towards the light and the Shrine of Remembrance.
Where will we find a memorial that adequately symbolises Australia's participation in the Vietnam War?
Will we find a memorial expressing the embracing of the light, the freedom and the joy of life amongst the ecosystems of the Australian bush and Australian cities, or will we find stone obelisks and military orders that must be obeyed ?
In considering this, let us not forget that the nexus between the city and bush is never far from the Australian psyche.
Perhaps it is partly because Australia's military strategy in Vietnam included the use of the defoliant Agent Orange, (and in so doing, turned a blind eye to this nexus between the city and bush - between man and nature), that Australia has struggled to bring forth memorials and symbols of this war that are congruent with its wider philosophy.
Tragically, the memories of the Vietnam War that resonate most amongst the Australian people are those such as the children portrayed in the photograph above. At the time, the Vietnamese, the Australian solders and the trees found themselves poisoned and without support. Once again, their arms and branches were outstretched.
The stone memorial depicted at right is to be found in the Queensland country town of Kalbar and provides one example of the armless genre of Australian war obelisks and memorials.
Not surprisingly, the nexus between the city and the bush is a strong landscape design feature in some of Australia's most significant war memorials.
Consider the nation's War Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra.
As shown in the photograph below, the landscape design included a cohesive vison for bushland, roads, public open space and symbolic structures.
As depicted in the 1967 black and white photograph below, the memorial avenue of palms in Anzac Park, Toowong, has a similar layout that rises up towards the bushland slopes of Mt Coot - tha. With a little more landscape design input, this symbolism could be more effectively developed as part of longer term planning for Anzac Park and the adjoining Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
Landscape Architect and Architect, Sir Walter Burley Griffin, (depicted above), and his talented Architect wife Marion Mahony Griffin, worked together to create a conscious, landscape design vision for Canberra: a city that would nestle within a vegetated landscape framework.
This philosophy has plenty of scope for application in Brisbane, as the city proceeds to build roads that cut right through Anzac Park and its connection to the forested slopes of Mt Coot tha.
Unlike the landscape design for Anzac Avenue in Canberra, the planning for the Brisbane City Council's Northern Link Tunnel project, (also known as Legacy Way), has caused much consternation amongst war veterans and the wider citizenry of the city.
My paternal great grandfather, Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer. . . .had been Commander of the Queensland Defence Force and had been largely responsible for the Mt Coot - tha Reserve whilst Queensland Premier (1870 - 1874), which up until the advent of the freeway construction, was seamlessly attached bushland to ANZAC War Memorial Park.
So wrote Arthur Beaufort Palmer of Toowong, in a Statutory Declaration of February 2011, written some 240 years after his great grandfather had been Premier of Queensland. The Declaration was prompted by recent activity in Anzac Park that was initiated by Brisbane City Council for its Northern Link Tunnel construction project. Like the Western Freeway before it, the Northern Link Tunnel project erodes the once seamlessly attached bushland connection between ANZAC War Memorial Park and the Mt Coot - tha Reserve.
As shown in the photograph at left, it is not only the senior citizens of Toowong who continue their vigilant guard over the symbolism and public interest for Anzac Park and the Mt Coot -tha bushland at Toowong. It is also the old warriers of the bushland itself.
Left poisoned and leafless as a legacy of Council's latest tunnel project, even in his last dying days, this old warrior Eucalypt stands tall at the portals of Mt Coot - tha Road.
Unflinching as the earthmoving equipment rolls into place to start building the tunnel, he holds forth his arms to provide protection to the next generation of wild birds as they nest. Here too, beneath the fringe of leaves, was shelter for the next generation of people: people who seek to build lives cognizant of the value of each and every tree, in this age of climate change and emerging carbon economies.
Just as war tends to become a phenomenon that is greater than any one participant, so in turn the landscape provides a larger context into which war memorials, roads, trees and people can be placed. Harkening to this subject, the words of Ataturk, the famous Turkish leader, have been inscribed into an Australian war memorial by the Gallipoli Memorial Fountains Committee:
"You, Heroes who shed your blood on the soil of this country. You are on the soil of a friendly country, Sleep in peace and quiet. You are side by side with our brave dead soldiers, in each other's arms. Mothers who sent their children from far away lands to the war. Wipe your tears, your children are in our bosom. They are in peace and will sleep in peace and quiet. After they lost their lives on this soil, they are our own children.
In contrast an inscription born of wars in the 21st century could well read:
" When we declare war on a foreign nation, we now also declare war on the Earth, on the soil and plants and animals, the water and wind and people in the most far-reaching and deeply infecting ways." http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/node/10311.
However, respecting the cycle of life and death as played out last century, the wheel of time has turned in Anzac Park, Toowong, as well as in Gallipoli. The ashes of soldiers have been scattered in park. The local citizens have succeeded in fending off Council's attempts to turn the park into part of the fenced off construction site for the Northern Link Tunnel/ Legacy Way project.
Where once there was a rifle range in Anzac Park, now the children play. The 1912 photograph of the rifle range, (below left), is courtesy of the collection of the John Oxley Library in Brisbane. The photograph of the park shown at the left was taken on Good Friday, just before Anzac Day 2011 - almost 100 years after the earlier photo.
Brisbane City Council maintains and upgrades Anzac Park and the adjoining Brisbane Botanic Gardens in Mt Coot tha Road, Toowong. These popular facilities are open to the public each day from sunrise to sunset.
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