"It recovered the history and whakapapa of the site, restored the overwhelming presence and sacred peacefulness of Gallipoli, and enabled young Anzacs to experience the landscape as their forebears had done." said architect Tony Watkins.
The jury wanted the road removed
This week’s Senate report on the controversial Gallipoli roadworks called for a thorough historical survey of the peninsula. Yet not only does a little-known study already exist. So too does an admirable but forgotten plan to safeguard the site’s precious heritage.
The Aussies wanted the road doubled
A PLAN TO SAVE ANZAC COVE
by ROSS MCMULLIN
The extensive roadworks at Anzac Cove in the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of Gallipoli earlier this year bewildered and angered thousands of Australians who regard the area as a sacred site.
But some had special cause for dismay. The fiasco reinforced their regret over a missed opportunity to protect the area where over 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders died during World War I.
A Senate inquiry into the roadworks this week advocated a full audit of the area and proper management of the site. Senator Andrew Bartlett declared that a comprehensive survey “must be done with absolute urgency, above all else”, and expressed his “amazement” that this had not already occurred.
What is practically unknown in Australia is that a detailed study has already been done—by the Turks eight years ago—as part of a design competition for the future management of Gallipoli. Moreover, this competition produced an impressive solution, also little known in Australia, to the heritage vulnerability highlighted by the roadworks fiasco and the Senate report.
Glenn Murcutt, one of the world’s finest architects, is the only Australian to have won the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious international architecture award. A professor at Yale and Seattle, he frequently adjudicates major international competitions. But for Murcutt one stands out—the 1997-98 Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park International Ideas and Design Competition.
Proposals for the future management of Gallipoli were invited. Murcutt chaired the judging committee, which included architects from Turkey, Spain, France, and New Zealand together with an American landscape architect. Gallipoli's Australian associations and affecting ambience stirred Murcutt, but what he found really remarkable was the exceptional documentation assembled for competition entrants.
Two massive bilingual volumes were produced in 1997. The Catalogue, a detailed inventory, analyses every cemetery or memorial (55 Turkish, 35 British and their allies), every settlement and every historical site (ramparts, forts, trenches, guns, even shipwrecks) on the peninsula. Each item is described and illustrated with a drawing or photograph or several of both. There are numerous maps. Even the local flora and fauna are represented with colour photographs of flowers, trees, birds and butterflies together with drawings of eleven varieties of fish.
The second volume, The Book, covers terms, conditions, issues, requirements and the background history. It also contains a series of maps, which illuminate the peninsula's history, geology, vegetation, forestry and waterways.
These volumes, according to Murcutt, are “remarkably extensive, as much as you could ever envisage”. Considering Australia’s enduring preoccupation with Gallipoli, it is extraordinary that they are practically unknown in Australia. Copies are scarce. This unfamiliarity is even more striking in the context of the roadworks controversy and calls for a comprehensive survey of Gallipoli.
The Gallipoli Peace Park Competition was an initiative of the Turkish government. The then Turkish president, Suleyman Demirel, provided a foreword for The Book: “The Republic of Turkey, wishing to keep these legendary battles fresh in the memory of the future generations and to show that no war is cause for permanent hostilities, but can serve as a basis for friendships as well, has made the decision to turn the Battlefield of Gallipoli into a Memorial for World Peace.''
It was a “great honour and excitement” for him to inaugurate the competition, Demirel added. Murkett felt these were genuine sentiments. In conversation with the president, Murkett was impressed by his remark that he wanted to focus not so much on the ferocious fighting at and after the landings on 25 April but on the successful withdrawal by Turkey's opponents that ended the campaign.
Even more influential than the president was Dr Raci Bademli. A Turkish professor of planning who was well connected politically, Bademli was the project director and its professional and technical adviser. He was the driving force behind the rapid production of the volumes, participated in the jury’s deliberations, and was prominent in the implementation phase.
An engaging personality, Bademli got on famously with Murcutt and Tony Watkins, the New Zealand architect on the competition jury. Bademli relished their enthusiasm for the project; they appreciated his empathy for the 1915 Anzac experience. Watkins sometimes felt Bademli was “more an Aussie than a Turk”.
Bademli wanted a design for the Peace Park that maximised sensitivity to the area's rich military heritage. This applied particularly to the Anzac sector where the Australians fought. In The Book he specified what the judges wanted to see in the designs that competition entrants submitted for Anzac Cove and the surroundings:
“The area should be delimited and its entrances well defined, and controlled. The integrity of existing graves and monuments (both Turkish and Commonwealth) should be secured and through-traffic of visitors and the local population eliminated from the area. Also, visitors should not be allowed into the battlefields in buses, automobiles or motor-cycles.''
Tourists could be delivered in buses to the edge of heritage-sensitive areas such as Anzac, but no further. How visitors proceeded from there as they explored the area and experienced the ambience was the essential problem that competition entrants had to solve. Murcutt and Watkins endorsed this approach.
The jury decided that the entry that most effectively incorporated this philosophy was from Norwegian architects Lasse Broegger and Anne-Stine Reine, who were awarded first prize.
Their design provided for small non-intrusive shuttle vehicles and a number of pathways. Australian and New Zealand visitors tend to gravitate to Anzac Cove and to proceed up and inland from there, whereas Turkish visitors typically start at the heights to the east that their ancestors were defending.
Broegger and Reine envisaged that Australian visitors could walk or catch a shuttle from their bus drop-off to Anzac Cove, and could walk from there along a pathway via Shell Green (the site of the famous 1915 cricket match and photograph recreated by Steve Waugh’s team in 2001) up to Lone Pine on the second ridge. Another pathway, positioned with New Zealanders in mind, could take in other notable positions including Monash Valley and Walker’s Ridge. Yet another could be created for Turks starting on the eastern heights.
The idea was to impinge as little as possible on Gallipoli's unique and fragile heritage. Taking tourist pressure off the park was a priority. Ever-longer streams of ever-bigger buses clogging traffic on ever-weaker roads while affording limited glimpses for inactive tourists was to be a thing of the past.
Instead, visitors unable or unwilling to walk or cycle could scrutinise video and other material at an interpretation centre located near the bus drop-off point on the edge of the heritage area, and could travel further afield on the shuttles if they wished.
The Norwegian design impressed Glenn Murcutt profoundly. It had “very beautiful propositions”, he says. Tony Watkins also remains full of admiration: "It recovered the history and whakapapa of the site, restored the overwhelming presence and sacred peacefulness of Gallipoli, and enabled young Anzacs to experience the landscape as their forebears had done."
With the design decided, the focus switched to implementation. Initial progress augured well. President Demirel was onside. Raci Bademli was dynamic, determined and decisive. A proposed bridge was stopped, a planned motorway diverted. This involved “heady politics”, affirmed Watkins, who was especially impressed when Bademli insisted on the demolition of posh houses illegally erected by well-to-do Turks near Suvla Bay.
But this auspicious progress slowed. The political and funding environment changed. Bademli found himself diverted into other spheres, notably the preparation of national codes in response to earthquakes. And Broegger and Reine were struggling. According to Reine, they had disagreements with Bademli and found the Turkish bureaucracy “very difficult”.
The Norwegians were young (early thirties) and inexperienced. During implementation they felt they were denied both appropriate support and adequate clarity in what was expected of them. On the other hand, some insiders concluded that the Norwegians' design skills exceeded their political nous and resourcefulness.
This is a familiar story for Australians aware of the difficulties endured by Walter Burley Griffin in Canberra and Joern Utzon at the Sydney Opera House. Winning a design competition is only the start. Implementation can be a fraught process.
Another problem, admirers of the Norwegian design felt, was that too many official representatives from Australia and New Zealand were unsympathetic. Too often they ignored the Norwegian design, frustrated by what they saw as its impractical restrictions, and pursued priorities of their own that contravened it.
This was influential. Bademli, like Watkins, sensed that united international will was essential. The design would not be implemented if left to Turkey alone. Bademli battled on, but was overworked as usual and had bureaucratic difficulties of his own to contend with.
The most devastating blow for the Gallipoli Peace Park came in 2003. Raci Bademli was diagnosed with cancer and died a few months later.
Events in 2005 reinforced the impression that the superb vision of Bademli, Broegger and Reine seems further away from implementation at Anzac Cove than ever. There could hardly be a more incompatible development than the roadworks shambles. It was, Murcutt lamented, “a landscape tragedy”.
The situation now is not promising. Demirel is no longer president. The current Turkish government has a pro-development ethos. Negotiations are in train between the Turkish and Australian governments to avert another potential heritage catastrophe, this time on the second ridge inland from Anzac Cove. Broegger and Reine have had no role at Gallipoli since 2001. The vacuum Bademli left has not been filled.
Meanwhile more and more buses bring in more and more tourists. The number of visitors has increased exponentially, and the unique heritage of the Anzac sector is increasingly vulnerable.
Still, Tony Watkins, for one, has not lost hope. The fundamentals have not changed, he maintains: “The need now is the same as ever—to implement the award-winning design”. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, whose great uncle died near Hill 60, is keen to do what she can to make it happen. Australia, too, should surely be striving to ensure that the Norwegians' design is implemented.