Public memorials are elements of our built environment whose designs often engender intense public scrutiny and debate. Moments and topics of contention within memorial decision-making processes can offer important, productive opportunities for democratic public participation on issues of great personal value, and for opening up memories, opinions, and design possibilities. These processes can thus enrich commemorative purposes. The embracing of engagement and conflict may also generate innovative and more widely acceptable design outcomes. But contestations around commemorative works are not always virtuous, open debate. Memorial procurement processes are distorted by differentials of power, knowledge and access. The objectivity, expertise and representativeness of decision-makers often come into question. This paper analyses the decisions made during the development of public memorial proposals in two Australian capitals, Canberra and Melbourne. It develops a general model of the memorial development process and characterises four distinct procurement approaches used: open competitions, invited competitions, direct commissioning, and ‘grassroots’ initiatives that bypass formal planning procedures. It identifies a set of key decisions made within these processes, and clarifies the significant parameters that determine the form and scope of stakeholder participation in each decision. It identifies a set of recent, contentious memorial cases in both cities which span the range of procurement approaches. The definition of these parameters suggests when and how decision-making processes for memorial procurement offer opportunities for creative friction among stakeholders, with potential to enhance memory, social identity, cohesion, and the quality of the public realm.
This paper was presented at SOAC 6, held in Sydney from 26-29 November 2013.
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.
SOAC 6 was the largest conference to date, with over 180 papers published in collected proceedings. All papers presented at the SOAC 2013 have been subject to a double blind refereeing process and have been reviewed by at least two referees. In particular, the review process assessed each paper in terms of its policy relevance and the contribution to the conceptual or empirical understanding of Australian cities.