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New design for Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

19 May, 2004

Beneath the Southern Cross – new design for Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

Ministry for Culture and Heritage Chief Executive Martin Matthews today announced that a new design has been commissioned for the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The Tomb will be located in front of the National War Memorial in Wellington. The new design is by New Zealand artist and sculptor Kingsley Baird.

“Kingsley Baird’s design, inspired by the Southern Cross constellation, possesses a distinctive New Zealand character,” said Mr Matthews. “His choice and treatment of materials, his use of symbols and language, strongly reflect the unique cultural identity of our land and people. We congratulate Kingsley and his team.”

Discussing the design concept Mr Baird said, “The Warrior will soon return to New Zealand. On his journey home he will be guided by the stars of the Southern Cross. We’ve used bronze and stone as the primary materials to symbolise his journey and final resting place.”

“The distance of the foreign land he leaves behind is represented on the base of the Tomb by a night sky of black granite inlaid with light grey Takaka marble crosses. The crosses represent the Warrior’s companions who died in service for their country and remain overseas. They also signify stars in the night sky. Around the base of the Tomb is text of a karanga, in Maori and English, calling the Warrior back to his homeland.”

“A cloak of bronze, decorated with four inlaid pounamu crosses, alludes to the Warrior’s national flag. It will be laid over his body as a celestial mantle. The bronze mantle also represents the vital role our Defence Forces play in protecting our nation and people.”

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has today submitted an application for resource consent for the Tomb to the Wellington City Council. “We have asked that it be notified to give the public an opportunity to comment on the new plan,” said Mr Matthews.

The new design has been developed to fit within the existing forecourt of the National War Memorial following an earlier decision not to proceed with a major redevelopment of the site.

The official dedication of the Tomb is scheduled for Armistice Day, 11 November 2004. Images of the design and site plan are online at: www.unknownwarrior.govt.nz

The Wellington-based design team led by Kingsley Baird includes Annette O’Sullivan (typographer), Michael Bennett (architect), Allen Wihongi (Maori culture consultant), Romulus Consulting Group (engineers) and Maltby and Partners (cost consultants).

Kingsley Baird’s artistic expression is concerned mostly with themes of memory and remembrance, loss and reconciliation, and cultural identity. His practice, while primarily in sculpture, comprises a wide variety of interests and media including collaborative landscape and urban design projects, installation, video art, and painting, as well as community projects. Commissions include The New Zealand Memorial in Canberra (in partnership with Studio of Pacific Architecture) and the Kereru sculpture in Tawa Village. He has an extensive history of solo and group exhibitions and works in numerous New Zealand and international collections, and is the recipient of various awards and grants. He holds a Master of Fine Art degree from RMIT, Melbourne and a Diploma in Arts from Victoria University, Wellington. He is currently a practising artist and designer, and senior lecturer at the College of Design, Fine Art and Music, Massey University of Wellington.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior will be a national focus of remembrance for the sacrifice made by all New Zealanders who have fought and died overseas. As the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, race, religion and other details are unknown, he will represent all those lost to their families through war.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Project is co-ordinated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Other government departments involved are: New Zealand Defence Force, Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs (Visits and Ceremonial Office), Te Puni Kokiri/Ministry of Maori Development, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is supported by the National War Memorial Advisory Council, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Royal New Zealand Returned Services’ Association, Te Ati Awa (represented by the Wellington Tenths Trust), and the Wellington City Council.

ENDS

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