Canberra celebrates the Griffins’ 100 years


To celebrate the centenary of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin’s arrival in Australia, the Walter Burley Griffin Society is holding a mini-festival in the national capital over three days in August 2013.

Caroline Pidcock, 2011 Marion Mahony Griffin Prize recipient.

15 August – Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture

Caroline Pidcock gives the fifth annual Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture. Titled The Magic of Australia, the lecture will look at the some of the issues that concerned the Griffins, who were attracted to Australia by its nascent democracy with high ideals, but found the reality more complex. Pidcock is chair of the Living Future Institute Australia, and her talk will also look at how some of their ideals might be built on in the future. Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science. Bookings essential.

Speakers (L–R): Emeritus Professor Paul Kruty, the Griffin Society of America; Professor James Weirick, president of the Griffin Society; Professor Dr Karl F. Fischer, UNSW.

16 August – The Griffins’ Canberra 100 years symposium

Keynote addresses by leading Griffin experts from the United States, Germany and Australia, with an introduction by John McInerney.

The Shine Dome. Image:  Adrienne Kabos
  • From Small Town to National Capital – Walter Burley Griffin’s Ideas about Architecture, Landscape and Planning, 1901–1913 will be delivered by Emeritus Professor Paul Kruty, a founding member of the Griffin Society of America, and professor emeritus of architectural history at the University of Illinois.
  • The Griffins in Australia will be delivered by Professor James Weirick – president of the Griffin Society and director of the Master of Urban Development and Design course at the University of New South Wales.
  • The Urbanism of the Griffin Plan – a 21st century international perspective is the address by Dr Karl F. Fischer, acting director of the Master of Urban Development and Design Course at the University of New South Wales. Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science. Bookings essential. 
Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin, photographed by Rowland Herbert, late 1920s. Image:  Walter Burley Griffin Society Collection, courtesy Cherilyn Herbert

16 August – National Library viewing / talk

A special viewing of the Eric Milton Nicholls Collection of Griffin drawings, plans and photographs takes place at The National Library of Australia, with a curator’s talk about particular aspects of the collection. This is a free public event: the curator’s talk begins at 10am.

17 August – The Griffins’ Canberra Bus Tour

Professor James Weirick, president of the Griffin Society, guides this tour of key locations to the Griffin story including Mt Ainslie, General Bridges’ Griffin-designed tomb at Duntroon, and the summit of Mt Pleasant, discussing along the way, the Griffins’ land and water axes, plans for a railway line and central station, urban centres and suburban ideals. Bookings essential.

Held concurrently with the mini festival are two free exhibitions. Design 29: Creating a Capital, featuring the Griffins’ original drawings by Marion (the winning entry No. 29), as well designs of other finalists, many unseen for 100 years. The Griffin drawings are listed on UNESCO’s Australian Memory of the World and are on show until 8 September 2013 at the National Archives of Australia. More.

Landmarks: People and Places across Australia. Having opened in 2011, this exhibition explores a broad history of Australia through stories of places and their peoples. The exhibition considers ten themes in Australian life, including the Griffins’ Castlecrag. National Museum of Australia. More.