The National Vietnam Veterans Museum is at a critical point in its history. As its therapeutic purpose fades with the veterans it has served, it must act to safeguard its unique national collection for current and future generations.
However, critically sub-standard buildings and infrastructure threaten the collection’s safety, restoration, preservation and growth; poor site visibility, access and amenity are constraining growth in users and revenues; and out-of-date collection display and interpretation inhibit a full understanding and recognition of the experiences of Vietnam veterans and the War’s societal impact. Key problems with the current building include:
Risk to the Collection:
• 100% of the collection is at a high risk of total loss by fire.
• Sensitive materials face significant degradation as the result of poor storage or display conditions.
• There is no capacity to expand the aircraft collection to increase the Museum’s appeal to families and younger visitors.
• Visitor numbers have reached an effective ceiling, despite the Museum’s proximity to Melbourne’s rapidly growing south-eastern corridor.
• The Museum is failing to meet the service and experience expectations of contemporary visitors.
• Out of date display and interpretation inhibit understanding and recognition of the veteran’s experiences and the societal impact of the war.
• The unique stories of Australia’s Vietnam veterans are not being fully told.
The Museum requires the construction of a new purpose-built facility on its recently acquired development site at 35 Churchill Road, Newhaven. This will include:
• Increasing the current floor space from 3,700 m2 to 5,500 m2 including flexible exhibition spaces.
• Providing contemporary presentations for visitors including multimedia experiences.
• Improved air-handling, security and fire detection systems.
• Upgraded visitor and community facilities.
• Increasing the Museum's visual profile.
The key benefits to be delivered by the investment are:
• Physical risks to the collection will have been reduced.
• Annual paid admissions will increase.
• Visitor experience will improve significantly.
• Large numbers of school age visitors annually.
• Recognition of volunteerism in the local community.
• Creating regional tourism growth.
• Support for war veterans.
The New Museum Building Concept
When designing for the museum aspirations, it is important to consider the subject matter of the collection, the Vietnam War, and contextualise it from the initial conflict, through to its ongoing, contemporary place within society.
A Place of Rest
It is important to note specifically the recent transition toward recognition, and reconciliation. The past tensions have left a legacy that, through time and ongoing relationships, are healing, signifying the tumultuous nature of the conflict period and the proceeding impacts it had, are transitioning toward a peaceful future.
The Museum’s collection can be viewed as a collection of stories, inclusive of the opposition forces during the war. A ‘War Era’ Museum, an unbiased representation of the Vietnam War.
The theme of ‘Opposing’ forces has been transposed onto our site, where the museum’s new home has to find its place between a number of different site conditions, and other influencing factors.
Phillip Island Context
Located on Phillip Island, approximately 1.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne, the New NVVM site is a 41-hectare block located along Phillip Island Road.
San Remo is to the East, and Cowes located to the West of our site. Existing tourism route is along Phillip Island road and so opportunities capitalise on those visitors should be highlighted.
The Site currently consists of 3 Paddocks, previously used for farming. There are existing dams featured on the site, natural scrub and planting, and a sensitive habitat zone located to the North. Site drainage currently works from the West toward the North East, and an existing high point ‘mound’ is located to the East of the Roundabout area.
Proposed Building Zone
Locating the building toward the East of the site, within proximity to the roundabout, affords effective access to the Museum. Significant noise from Phillip island road, along with early council advice requiring the building to have a reduced visual impact as possible from the road, would indicate a setback of at least 100M from the boundary could be required to mitigate risk in these areas.
The Native vegetation overview assessment conducted by Nature Advisory identifies wetland areas, vegetation areas, and sensitive habitat areas on our site. Recommendations have included setting the building and site works away from the sensitive habitat zone by approximately 20 m. Given the large area of the site, we have an opportunity to be generous with setbacks. The site extends significantly to the West, allowing for future museum expansion in that direction.
A Permanent Home
The unique, historic collection is the driving influence behind the design. National Architecture and Design studio, Architectus, have led the design of the Museum, providing a solid, grounded, permanent building, with a thermally stable environment to preserve the museum's objects, and maintain a comfortable environment for visitors to enjoy. Their investigations of spatial outcomes, construction methodologies, and physical materiality have given the Museum its 'Monolithic' appearance. The Physical shape and appearance of the building have been developed to deliver a high quality, low maintenance, sustainably operated Museum.
A Multi-layered user experience
Securing the ongoing financial viability of the Museum has been at the forefront of the design and decision-making process. The Maytrix Group, leading retail and hospitality strategy consultants, assisted the design team in developing a high quality, Multi-faceted visitor experience. This included providing multipurpose rooms to hold functions, grow the museums already excellent school education programmes, and cater to events. An on-site cafe/bar/restaurant provides a much-needed destination for the many Phillip Island tourists to sit in a beautiful setting, and recharge.
Award winning Engineering firm Taylor Thomson Whitting (TTW) have collaborated with the design team to create inventive and efficient structural systems that allow the Museum exhibition hall to feature many of their Large Objects within their collection. The expansive volume within the museum literally allows our planes to 'fly'.
The TTW Civil Engineering division has also focussed on embedding the museum within its landscape context, providing the 'screening' mounds that create a dramatic entrance to the site. Their focus on sustainable initiatives with high quality storm water run-off and natural filtration ensure the museum has benefits to the wider ecological system of Phillip Island.
Leading sustainability consultants 'Hip v Hype' were engaged from the beginning of the design process, assisting the design team to develop good passive design principles, and implement them into the proposed building.
These elements include:
• Extensive solar PV installation.
• Effective natural light.
• Thermal mass.
• Solar shading.
• Green roofing.
• Storm water management.
These elements align with Bass Coast Shire Council’s sustainability objectives.
Services engineering firm, ADP consulting, have ensured efficient and economical building operations, providing a tailored services response the varied demands of the Museum.
Embedded in the Landscape
Tract Landscape have also designed extensive landscape wetlands, nature play areas, commemorative gardens, nature walks, and tree lined avenue of honour for visitors to extend their experience beyond the exhibition itself.
The Planning Application was lodged with the Bass Coast Shire Council in March 2021.
It is expected that the Planning Application will be advertised soon.
Updates on the progress of the Planning Application are available from the Bass Coast Shire Council website here: