A museum for future generations

Inspiration, one stage at a time

For the past 5 years the South Pacific WWII Museum has operated out of the small building it completely renovated on the museum site in Unity Park, Luganville on Espiritu Santo. That site was once home to the No.2 PT Boat Squadron in World War II.

The site will soon be joined by the first building to be constructed as part of the new South Pacific WWII Museum complex. Until it acquires a permanent name, it will funnily enough be called Stage 1.

Following discussions with long time Museum supporter Steve Turner in Western Australia, he approached renowned Perth architect Mario Bernardi for his assistance in bringing the first stage to life. With Mario’s previous experience designing beautiful homes on Santo and his passion for ‘off form’ concrete construction, he seemed like the perfect person to assist us.

Mario generously agreed to design the building, incorporating exciting contemporary design and environmental principles while maintaining a beautifully simple interpretation on the US Navy WWII Quonset hut – still a feature in and around Luganville.

The main building will be constructed adjacent to the existing Quonset hut slab that dates back to the PT Boat base of WWII.

It includes two levels of exhibition space, including an upstairs meeting area and theatrette.

The off form concrete construction technique and Colourbond roof will give the building strength and durability, in almost any weather. And being raised on a rammed earth foundation, will mitigate high tides and storm surges. Internal exposed internal beams will also serve as design elements that link it back to the original WWII Quonset hut.

Unique to the design is the brilliant double skinned roof that allows air to actually travel between the two roofs creating a venturi effect that will extract excess heat from the building, thereby reducing the museum’s carbon footprint.

Outside, a smaller Quonset building connected to the main building via a pathway, will house the Museum’s LCVP Higgin’s Boat, protecting it from the weather. Mario’s Quonset influenced design dovetails in beautifully with the master plan for the project developed previously.

The designs were then turned into stunning renderings by European architectural 3D artist Stefan, through Scott Turner from 99designs in Melbourne. They both contributed greatly to creating the renders ‘in kind’ for the museum project. We are extremely grateful to them for their assistance.

A place of learning for everyone

When we began this project, some years ago, it was always our intention to deliver a world class learning experience to the people of Espiritu Santo. While our current museum has and for the moment, continues to go some way to achieving this goal, Stage 1 of the Big Build will raise the bar considerably.

The sharing of the history of Santo is what is driving the project. According to Museum Project Manager James Carter. “This first stage of the museum project will open up even greater opportunities for schools and provide us with the facilities for even more to come through the museum and learn from it”, he said. “Since 2017 we’ve had students from over 50 schools come through our mini museum to learn about Vanuatu’s forgotten history, and many more have expressed an interest in visiting us.”

The Museum continues to receive wonderful feedback from both teachers and students who say they never knew anything about the WWII history of Santo. They love the idea of getting out of the classroom and getting real hands-on experience with the history that’s all around them, but they never knew it was there.

Where to next?

Getting to this stage has taken a great deal of work by the Museum Committee. “The pandemic and Tropical Cyclone Harold really set us back”, said Museum Chairman Bradley Wood. “But through some incredible perseverance and a passion to see the project succeed we’re at a very exciting stage right now. We’re moving forward with a great deal of confidence and a renewed excitement.”

The next stage for the South Pacific WWII Museum is a big fundraising campaign to raise the necessary funds needed to construct Stage 1. 

The campaign will kick off later in 2022 and more information will be posted to the Museum’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and the website soon. Of course we’re more than happy for anyone to make a donation between now and then, should they wish to.

The Museum would like to thank the following people and organisations for their generosity in helping get Stage 1 to where it is today. 

Steve & Wendy Turner for their ongoing commitment to the museum.

Mario Bernardi for the design of the museum building.

Richard Norrish for taking Mario’s designs and turning them into plans.

Stefan for his stunning 3D renderings of the building.

Scott Turner from 99designs for liaising with Stefan to do the renderings.

99 Designs for providing Stefan’s beautiful work ‘in kind’.


If there’s anything you would like to know about Stage 1 of the South Pacific World War II Museum development, please contact us and we’ll get back to you very soon.

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